Compass Points Aug 2014: Open Meeting Law

Greetings,

As I settle into my new position, I want to share recent changes to the open meeting law in Vermont. Transparency of public boards is important, as elected officials wish to represent their communities well and need input to do so. Some of the key changes clarify when public bodies can enter into executive session to have private discussions, provide details on how to conduct meetings electronically, create new requirements for posting meeting agendas in advance, and create new requirements for remedying Open Meeting Law violations.

I have been impressed with the boards I have thus far joined for meetings and their continual discussions about how to engage the community with what is happening in the schools. The boards are reviewing where agendas are posted, and formally identifying three sites in each community as the new law requires.

The law also indicates new additional reasons that boards may consider executive session, including to discuss “pending or probable civil litigation or a prosecution, to which the public body is or may be a party,” as well as “confidential attorney-client communications made for the purpose of providing legal services to the body.”  The State of Vermont law was previously unclear whether these situations provided adequate grounds for executive session, and the new legislation removes any doubt.  Additionally, public bodies are empowered to enter executive session to discuss “municipal and school security or emergency response measures, the disclosure of which could jeopardize public safety.”

The full RNESU Board will participate in a workshop early in September on the new changes in the law and hope to invite other public bodies to attend that session.

Some boards are also discussing the use of PEG TV to videotape and then stream their meetings. Pittsford School Board has been  videotaping their meetings for over a year.. The OV Board and RNESU Board are considering this practice to assist our communities in better understanding the work of the Boards. Let your Board member know what you think of the idea.

I also wish to be accessible and transparent. My communications with the boards are part of their agendas for the community to follow. I will continue to write Compass Points in the paper and will start a blog shortly as well. If you wish to follow me on Twitter, my handle is jcollins15 and our hashtag is #rnesu. Also, feel free to email me at jcollins@rnesu.org or call 802.247.5757 if you wish to talk. At any time, you can also leave comments for me or other employees at www.rnesu.org website in a link on the superintendents’ page. Enjoy summer!.

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