Trustee Orientation: Vermont Open Meeting Law

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  • Amy Howlett VT Department of Libraries Trustee Orientation, Rutland Free Library


  • 1. AMY HOWLETT VERMONT DEPARTMENT OF LIBRARIES, 2/2/11 Trustee Orientation: Vermont Open Meeting Law
  • 2. Ground rules
    • Everyone participates, no one dominates
    • Disagree with grace and tact
    • There’s no such thing as a stupid question
    • Stretch or take a break if it’s necessary
    • Meetings start on time and end on time– or early
    • Thanks to Lawrence Webster of Webster Consulting
  • 3. Tonight’s Agenda
    • Open Meeting Law
    • Other issues to cover tonight?
  • 4.
    • PP 45-51
    Vermont Open Meeting Law
  • 5. Public meetings 47
    • A majority of board members come together to discuss public business
    • Meeting Law applies to committees of boards
    • Public notice is required
    • Members of the public must be allowed to speak
    • Written minutes available within five days
    • Executive session excludes the public
  • 6. Minutes 46, 50
    • Minutes are public records
    • Must be available within five days of the meeting
    • Must include all names of all members of the public body at the meeting and other active participants
    • Must record all motions, proposals, resolutions, and the results of any vote taken
    • Minutes are not a transcript of the meeting
    • Clerk of the board is the source for copies of minutes; interested parties may review, get copy at actual cost
  • 7. Public notice 47
    • Regular meeting : board adopts a resolution outlining its schedule and makes it public. Agenda must be available if the public specifically requests.
    • Special meeting : board may meet at other times by posting the agenda in three places, one at the Town Clerk’s office, and sending it to each board member 24 hours before the meeting begins. Notice must be given to any media that have requested it.
    • Emergency meeting : board responds to “condition requiring immediate attention”; rarely used
  • 8. Public Comment 48
    • “ Public comment period is not a free-for-all. The chair of the board is allowed by law to establish reasonable rules to ensure civility and avoid delay, and reasonable limitations on the amount of time for each speaker are not unusual or improper. “
    • Comment at the beginning of the meeting
    • Comment at the end of the meeting
    • Comment whenever anyone present has something to add; how does this work?
  • 9. Adversarial public comment
    • How can the board position table, chairs, and the room for effective audience attention?
    • Are there effective meeting practices that can be used during the meeting and public comment period?
    • Consider time limits if many people wish to speak; interruption if the chair or a member needs a break; using the chair’s power to rule someone out of order, member’s right to ask about a “point of order”
  • 10. Executive Session 48-9
    • Entering Executive Session
    • Motion and vote by a majority; both noted in the minutes of the meeting
    • Motion must include the reason, from the list given by the legislature
  • 11. Reasons to enter Executive Session 49
    • Appointment/ employment/ evaluation of employee
    • Disciplinary or dismissal action against employee
    • Clear and imminent peril to the public safety
    • Discussion of records that are not public documents under the access to public records act
    • Usually Executive Session is used when the board discusses the director’s performance in a regular board meeting or in the Personnel Committee
  • 12. What actually happens? 49
    • Someone makes a motion: I move the board enter Executive Session in order to discuss a personnel issue. [from the list]
    • Someone seconds the motion: I second.
    • The clerk notes the motion and second.
    • The chair says to the public: We’re going into Executive Session. You can wait outside; we’ll let you know when the Session ends.
    • The board leaves the Session at a particular time; public invited back in, and board may take action
  • 13. What actually happens? 49
    • Board may not take action in Executive Session except for entering a real estate purchase option
    • Any action must be handled by motion and vote in the meeting after the Executive Session ends
    • In Executive Session the board discusses the issue
    • Only the subject matter of the motion to enter Executive Session may be discussed
    • Board may invite its staff, clerks, legal counsel, and persons whose information is needed
  • 14. Guide to Open Meetings 49
    • “ Boards should close their meetings rarely, and then only for legitimate purposes. If the subject is already well known to the community, even if the board is able to find a category to cite, there is no justification for entering executive session.”
  • 15. Enforcement 51
    • “ The open meeting law should be enforced with the same spirit in which it is written. It is a guide to proper behavior by public officials. Sometimes boards make mistakes.
    • In cases where the offense is unintentional, the best remedy is often to ensure that the board understands how the law works so that it does it right the next time.”
  • 16. Other questions about Open Meeting?
    • Vermont Secretary of State Office
    • (802) 828- 2363
  • 17. For a Library Development Consultant…
    • Rob Geiszler, for Addison, Chittenden & Rutland counties [email_address] (802) 786-3839
    • Amy Howlett, for Bennington, Windham & Windsor counties [email_address] (802) 463-0142
    • Michael Roche, for Caledonia, Essex, Lamoille, Orange & Washington [email_address] (802) 748-3428
    • Jeremiah Kellogg, for Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille, Orange & Washington [email_address] (802)828-2320
  • 18. Vermont Department of Libraries
    This publication is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency, through the Library Services and Technology Act.