Massachusetts citizens filed a record number of open meeting law complaints against their local governments in 2021.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, which investigates and addresses open meeting law violations, 406 complaints were filed in 2021. At least 350 of those complaints have been resolved by the AG with 202 complaints receiving official determination letters from the state.
The story was reported by masslive which noted,
The most frequent complaints included insufficient meeting notices, failure to release meeting minutes, meetings not accessible to the public and deliberations outside of a posted meeting.
Although the cause of the drastic uptick in complaints wasn’t discussed, it seems reasonable to assume that controversial COVID restrictions and regulations were at least partly to blame.
Here in East Longmeadow, I have filed two complaints against our Health Board–both complaints were made in response to their recurring mask mandates.
Below are some of the key points that every Massachusetts resident should know about our state’s open meeting laws. The information is an excerpt from an earlier post I made entitled Legal Tools for Dealing with Local Governments.
Open Meeting Laws
- All local government bodies must comply with Massachusetts’ Open Meeting Laws.
- Notice of all meetings must be posted at least 48 hours in advance.
- Typically, notice is posted on the town’s website but it can also be published in a local newspaper or a hardcopy of the notice may be posted outside of town hall.
- The notice must list all topics that will be voted on at the meeting.
- If your local officials fail to comply with the Open Meeting Laws, you can file a complaint against the town with the Massachusetts Attorney General.
- The complaint must be submitted on the form provided by the Attorney General. For a copy of the form, see below.
- The Open Meeting Laws encourage, but do not require, public comment sessions at each meeting.
- Whether public comments will be heard is determined by the board chairman.
- Most chairmen will allow residents to speak for only three meetings.
- Board members will not answer questions during a public comment session.
- Although Massachusetts law does not require local government boards to hear public comments, some town charters or bylaws do require time for comments.