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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


Open Meeting Law Enhancements

This week's Maplewood Review includes an article by Alex Davy that is well worth reading. Entitled "Goal-setting session pushed back; Mayor cites concern about open meeting law," it should probably be nominated for some award for longest and most in-depth article about a meeting that did not actually occur. Davy uses last week's cancelled council retreat as a springboard for a discussion about the Open Meeting Law in its Maplewood historical context, and also in the context of a bill now working through the Minnesota Legislature.

That bill is SF 3120/HF 3367. The two key provisions of the bill are first to require the recording of meetings that are closed for reasons other than attorney-client privilege. (In Maplewood we already record all closed meetings.) The second is an addition to the law that allows for the award of reasonable attorneys fees in cases where a written opinion was issued by IPAD and "the court finds that the opinion is directly related to the cause of action being litigated and that the public body did not act in conformity with the opinion." This brings the Open Meeting Law in line with other aspects of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act with respect to IPAD's advisory opinions.

These are small steps, but I'm happy to see any movement forward in the law. Remember, the Open Meeting Law does not only apply to the city council -- it also applies to the volunteers who serve on our city's citizen boards and commissions. As I am correctly quoted in Mr. Davy's article, I believe we need to bring more changes to the Open Meeting Law, to better encompass modern communications technology. This could improve communications within elected and appointed bodies, and increase transparency for citizens.


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