Sunday, October 4, 2009

What Makes A Meeting Open?

There is a terrific column by Dave Askins at the Ann Arbor Chronicle about the Open Meetings Act.  The article is framed around the City of Ann Arbor email scandal, but the questions that are raised apply to lots of other governmental bodies, including school boards around this county. I have not (yet:) done any research around how our local school boards meet, or don't meet, the requirements of the Open Meetings Act. I'm interested in whether they meet both the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. I have noted that, at least in the Ann Arbor schools, it is hard to find out if there are any district-wide committees that are open to interested parents.

If you have thoughts about your experiences with the "openness" of school boards, either post a comment here or email me at rlk234 (at)


  1. Prosecutor's office: School board members violated Open Meetings Act
    By Cindy Heflin
    June 06, 2007, 5:11PM
    Four Ypsilanti school board members violated the Michigan Open Meetings Act when they attended a March 8 meeting of teachers and staff who complained about then- High School Principal Layne Hunt, according to the Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office.

    Criminal charges, however, will not be filed, Deputy Chief Assistant Prosecutor Steve Hiller said in a memo released Wednesday to The News. Hiller wrote there is not enough evidence to prove that Amy Doyle, Andy Fanta, Cameron Getto, and Tom Reiber intended to violate the state law.

    Hiller's nine-page memo dated June 5, stemmed from a meeting the board members attended at the Michigan Education Association's office on Carpenter Road in Pittsfield Township. Doyle and Getto have since resigned from the board. After much controversy at the high school, Hunt resigned as principal March 28.

    From MLIVE

  2. Imagine that a teacher sends an email or a letter to each school board member, complaining about a situation at school. If each board member reads it, is that a violation of OMA?

    What if two teachers (independent of each other) do it?

    What if ten teachers sign one letter of complaint and send it to each school board member?

    School board members are supposed to be listening to the concerns of the community, which includes parents, students, community members, and teachers.

    Did those four board members advise the teachers? Did they deliberate? Or did they just listen?

    I bet more business is conducted at school board conferences with a quorum present, than ever happened during that incident.

  3. Anon2, your comment really gets to some of the difficult-to-figure-out parts of the Open Meetings Act. What happens intentionally? What happens incidentally? Does it make a difference? I posted some summaries of the case law decisions.