Staffing Changes Do Not Constitute Good Cause for Failing to Approve Minutes Under OML on Time
On January 25, 2019, the Attorney General found that the Kingston Board of Selectmen violated the Open Meeting Law (OML) by failing to approve minutes in a timely manner as required by M.G.L. c.30A, § 22(c). The OML’s regulations define “timely manner” as “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.
The Kingston Board of Selectmen did not approve the minutes of its November 28, 2017 meeting until its 31st meeting thereafter, and 336 days had passed; did not approve its March 9, 2018 minutes until its 22nd meeting thereafter, and 236 days had passed; and did not approve its April 20, 2018 minutes until its 18th meeting thereafter, and 194 days had passed. The Board pointed to staffing changes to justify the delay. Although the Attorney General noted the demands on a public body with limited staff, she ultimately concluded that the public body is responsible to comply with the law and that staffing changes did not provide good cause for the delay.
This decision is clearly significant for public bodies that rely upon staff to create agendas, post meeting notices, and draft minutes. Vacancies in such positions will not support a public bodies’ non-compliance with the OML. A copy of the OML decision may be found here.