Open Meeting Law Training for Town Boards and Committees
The Town of Nahant and Lauren Goldberg from K.P. Law recently hosted a Open Meeting Law Training via Zoom for all Town Committee and Board members. This valuable training video can be watched by clicking the link below:
A Guide to Posting Meeting Notices, Agendas & Minutes
This is intended to be a Guide for Public Body Chairs and Clerks who will be handling postings for meetings and filing minutes. The Open Meeting Laws and Town charter should be referred to for complete understanding and listing of the specifics outlined in this document.
Posting a Meeting
Meeting Notices and Agendas must be posted 48 hours in advance of the meeting excluding Saturday, Sundays and legal holidays. Please keep in mind that the Town Clerk’s hours of operation and make necessary arrangements to be sure your posting is made in an adequate amount of time Monday – Thursday by 3:30 and Friday by 12:00.
Meeting Postings must contain the following information:
- The name of the public body that is meeting.
- The date and time of the meeting.
- Where the meeting is being held (location, room, address or Zoom)
- A list of topics that are reasonable expected to be discussed at the meeting in sufficient details to reasonably expected at the time of posting, it may be discussed at the meeting.
Any revision to the posting should be made as soon as possible prior to the meeting.
24 hour / 7 Day A Week Access
The Open Meeting Law requires 24 hours / 7 day a week access to meeting schedules and agendas. The Town of Nahant utilizes the Town of Nahant Website www.nahant.org as their primary posting site. Meeting notices are also posted at the Town Hall outside in the green bulletin board on the side of the building.
Receiving and Filing Postings & Agendas
If you are a member of the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board, Board of Assessor, Zoning Board of Appeals or Conservation
If you are a member of the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board, Board of Assessor, Zoning Board of Appeals or Conservation Commission, occasionally you will be required to hold a public hearing in accordance with Massachusetts General Law. In most cases where notice of a public hearing is required, notice shall be given by publication in a newspaper for a specified period of time. It is also necessary to post such notice on the Town of Nahant Website and in a conspicuous place in the Town Hall. I typically post all meeting and hearing notices on the Green Bulletin board on the side of the building for a specified period of time.
Written notices, the initiation of the hearing and the written conclusions of the public hearing may have a strict legal time limitations that vary with the character of each board.
Cancelled, Postponed, or Relocated Meetings
If a meeting is cancelled or moved to another location, the Town Clerk shall be informed, so that I may have it for my records. It If a meeting is cancelled or moved to another location, the Town Clerk must be informed, so that I may have it for my records. It is recommended that a sign be posted on the meeting room door and on the entrance door to the building informing the public of the changes.
Importance of the Record – Many matters before boards and committees are reviewable by a court on an appeal. In many of these matters, the appeal is based on the records developed before the board or committee. Thus, it is very important to adequately develop a records which is going to reflect accurately what went on and most importantly, support your decision.
Committees shall create and maintain accurate minutes of all meetings, including executive sessions. Minutes are not intended to be a transcript of the meeting, but rather an accurate recording of the meeting logistics, topics discussed and actions taken by the committee.
Meeting Minutes as set forth by law must include the following information.
- State the date, time, location, room, address
- List all members present and all members absent
- Summarize each topic discussed by the public body
- Exact wording of all motions, including who made and seconded the motion
- The decisions made and actions taken, including a record of all votes. (Votes in executive session must be recorded in the minutes by roll call)
- A list of documents and other exhibits used by the body at the meeting and where such exhibits or documents may be reviewed by the public.
List of Documents and Other Exhibits
Documents and other exhibits, such as photographs, recordings or maps, used by the body at an open meeting or executive session shall be part of the record of the session. While public bodies are required to retain these records in accordance with records retention laws, the documents and exhibits listed in the minutes need not be physically stored with minutes. Please be sure that the minutes include a list of documents used.
Per Open Meeting Laws any recordings of Committee or Board meetings are also considered Public Records. If you use the Town Zoom account and record your meetings those meeting will be uploaded to the Town of Nahant Website www.nahant.org. Should you use a different “Zoom” account all recordings should be submitted to the Town Clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The records of all public body non-executive session meetings minutes are public and permanent records and must be available for public inspection. Records of any executive session remain closed to the public only as long as publication may defeat the purposes of the executive session.
Meeting notes and Draft minutes are NOT considered public record until they are officially produced and voted on by the committee. Any secretarial notes, if not destroyed once the official minutes are accepted, are considered a public document under the public records law.
Once Minutes are accepted by Committee Vote
The committee chairman should sign the minutes and indicate on the minutes the date of the meeting at which the minutes were accepted.
The minutes shall be e-mailed in Word format to email@example.com or dropped off to the Office of the Town Clerk for permanent retention.
The minutes must be approved in a timely manner. G.L. c. 30A, § 22(c). A “timely manner” will generally be considered to be within the next three public body meetings or within 30 days, whichever is later, unless the public body can show good cause for further delay. 940 CMR 29.11(2).
Committees, which meet less frequently, should adopt a procedure, which will assure approval within two months of the original meeting date.
Executive Session Minutes
Minutes from an executive session should not be released if the lawful purpose for conducting an executive session would be defeated. Such minutes should be withheld from public disclosure unless and until the reason for convening the executive session no longer exists. However, they should be approved by the committee in a “timely manner.” (see above)
The committee chair or other appropriate designee shall, from time to time review the purpose for having entered into executive session to determine whether continued non-disclosure of minutes is warranted. Such review should not be unreasonably delayed in that there is a policy for release of executive session documents as soon as the reason for executive privilege have lapsed. This review and determination must be included as a topic discussed in the minutes of said meeting.
Once disclosure would no longer defeat the lawful purpose for the executive session, the minutes must be disclosed unless they are otherwise exempt for the Public Records Law, M.G.L. c. 4§7, cl. 26 or are attorney-client privileged. Case law has dictated that committees are entitled to attorney-client privilege but the Attorney General has offered an opinion that the privilege is not absolute. Town Council should be contacted to determine whether the privilege applies.
Members of committees must refrain from disclosing any matter discussed within an executive session unless and until the executive session minutes are released.
Executive Session Reminders
Before an Executive Session can be called, the following procedures must be followed:
These procedures must be reflected in the meeting minutes.
- An open session, for which notice has been given, most be convened.
- The presiding officer must cite the purpose for the Executive session and state whether the Board will reconvene thereafter in open session.
- The presiding officer must also state that the public discussion will be detrimental to the public interest.
- A majority of Board members must vote, by roll-call, to t into Executive Session and the vote must be recorded in the committee minutes.
- Votes in executive session must be recorded in minutes by roll-call.
- Executive Session Minutes must be disclosed when purpose of exemption has been met, unless otherwise protected.
- Executive Session Minutes must be reviewed periodically by chair or public body.
- Executive Session Minutes must be provided within 10 days in response to request, unless review not yet undertaken (then by board’s next meeting or 30 days, whichever occurs first).
- Executive session minutes must be filed with the Town Clerk once made public.