BOV Retreat August 2013: FOIA Presentaton

Here are my unedited notes

 

8-2-13 BOV Retreat 8:50- 9:45 PRESENTATION ON FOIA.
Note Vice Rector Goodwin is not present.
A really good presentation.
Speaker notes that there are 2 attorneys represent the FOIA council
Maria quotes from Johnny Guitar Watson’s song about FOIA ( someone should find and post the link)
Open meeting laws and shows how one would feel if they are a citizen. She gives examples about a local school board, You expect the schools board or local government to follow the law.
As a public official you need to stay in touch with your citizen self. YOu must stay in touch with your citizen self. The members of BOV have agreed to step onto a public stage willingly.
Government is not always efficient. But everyone works hard to do the public’s business.
You as BOV members are the government. You have to afford every opportunity for citizens to watch the business of government. Public hearings and comments are not required, but every time you have a meeting you have to have the public there to witness it
FOIA has a default rule. If you are not sure if its a meeting, the default rule is its open.
Your number one client is the people.
Open to the public, has to be a notice and there has to be minutes of the meeting.
Staff gives the notice and the minutes.
BOV only requirement is to meet publicly.
If 3 or more of the members discussing the business of you business, that is a meeting.
The rule protects the rest of the board that 3 or more members cannot meet without you the board members knowing about it. You have choices, keep your numbers down or keep your mouth shut.
If you come early to a meeting, ca 3 or more of you talk, its a meeting. If you car pool and talk about the public business, its a meeting.
When you are talking about the public’s business you reach decisions. The deliberative process should be done in public, not just having votes of issues already decided.
If you go to a trade association thing that BOV may have, the FOIA council has an opinion , those are not meetings under FOIA, but, if you then talk about application of what you’ve learned with 3 members, can’t do it.
Noah’s ark rule: 2×2 you can do whatever you want.
FOIA balances the need of government to function vs the right of access.
IF you do it by email, it is a public record. Doesn’t matter what equptment you use. Emails can be a meeting, if 3 or more are on the same email or instant chat and simultaneous discussion and you are talking about business. Suggests you use your staff to moderate the emails you send between each other.
If someone sues you for violating the law, you have to pay the costs of the lawsuit. If you violate knowingly and willfully, there is a monetary penalty per violation of $2500. . Don’t use reply all to have on line discussion.

Sub- committees. They are also public bodies and have to follow the law.
2 people on a 3 person sub committee is a quorum, so it has to be public.

This is not convenient. She says convenience does not belong to the government. If you want to move things along, have a meeting. If we only did things that worked for us, it goes to a bad place.

Voting must always occur in an open session.
To close a meeting must have a statement of purpose, subject and a code site. You have to say the purpose: Sample of subject, purchase of propery, evaluation of …
Your minutes will document whether or not you have a subject.
You have to stay on topic in the closed meeting.
Usually your lawyer will bring you back to topic.
You can vote in a closed session , but it does not count.
Procedurally you have to certify that the closed meeting followed the rules and that you stayed don topic. Anything you decide in closed session until you make a motion that identifies the subject matter, such as we vote to purchase the property that was discussed in the closed session.
Sometimes you don’t decide in the closed session, tell the public you have not decided.
1 copy of the agenda materials must be provided for the public somewhere after the BOV has been notified. They encourage people to bring copies of he agenda to the meeting. If you refer the public to the materials, the public should be able to look at those materials as well. If you say turn to page 36, bring copies for the public to see.
State bodies are allowed to have E-meetings. Have to have 5 people in one location and others can call in from locations that are both noted, and are accessible to the public.

If there is an interruption in the transmission, the meeting has to stop until the transmission is restored!

If you can’t make the meeting , stalled en route, sick morning of the meeting, you can call in with vote by the board . Can do it 2 times a year.
Stuff happens. Medical condition: you can call in at all times.

Dragas: I think we have been advised that someone can call in but not participate.

Maria: you can, when an individual has a personal problem, you can ask for permission to call in. But you are limited.

There is a rule where they can listen, but not counted as present.
If the meeting is not set up as an e-meeting, you can let them call in and monitor and not take part. No permission required for this.

Suggestion that the remote location be a community college, or something. Have it so that the public can attend, even if the remote member does not show up. You can have it in your house, but people can come in your house.

FOUCH: If Board member loses connection, or the board member hangs up before the meeting ends. If transmission is lost, they have to pause the meeting. IF board member leaves, they need to keep the transmission open.

Suppose the board member wants to walk away and no member of the public is present.

Maria: says that’s a hard question. The default rule is when in doubt go to openness. It doesn’t mean someone couldn’t show up later. The location should stay open.

Dragas: It seems to me we need to deliberate more in public than we do. We try to have things wrapped up tightly and bring it to the board. We should learn from the last year and take more time in our board meetings for deliberation. No one’s particular fault here. She offers this as an observation. Perhaps put time into the meetings.

Genovese: if you have 2 hours for a meeting, should you post that

Maria, yes, better if you post that.

WHAT YOU TALK ABOUT IN CLOSED SESSION IS NOT CONFIDENTIAL.
It may be a political problem, not a FOIA question if you talk about this
You cannot have a closed session to talk about the behaviour of a board member.

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