Public Meetings and Proceedings
The SCRIMD shall comply with the open meeting requirements of Arizona Revised Statutes 38-431 through 38-431.09, as clarified by opinions and presentations provided by the Arizona Attorney General, as described below. Text in red comes from the former, black the latter.
It is the policy of the state that meetings of public bodies be conducted openly and that notices and agendas be provided for such meetings. All persons so desiring shall be permitted to attend and listen to the proceedings.
What constitutes a meeting
A meeting is a gathering, in person, through technological means, or through third parties of a quorum of a public body at which they discuss, propose or make a collective decision, commitment or promise pursuant to the body’s scope of appointment. Location (if the gathering is physical) must be one at which the public would feel comfortable, e.g. not a restaurant or private home. Time must primarily work for the board, but not before 6:00 A.M.
Who must comply with Open Meeting Law
"Public bodies” including instrumentalities whose boards of directors are appointed or elected by the state or political subdivision. Public body includes any entity that is officially established, on motion and order of a public body or by its pressiding officer, whose members have been appointed for the specific purpose of making a recommendation concerning a decision or course of conduct to be considered by the public body.
Elected officials or appointed members of a public body are required to review open meeting law materials at least one day before taking office. Sanctions may be imposed upon any person who knowlingly aids, agrees to aid or attempts to aid another person in violating this article.
What is Required under the Open Meeting Law
Notice:The OML requires at least 24 hours (excluding Sundays & Holidays) notice to members of the public body and the general public. Special taxing districts may conspicuously post a statement on their website about the physical and electronic locations where all public notices of their meetings will be posted as well as individual meeting notices and shall give other public notice as is reasonable and practicable. In the alternative, they may file a statement with the clerk of the Board of Supervisors stating where all public notices of their meetings will be posted. Exception: recess & resume, emergency meetings, temporary technological problems. Recommended: Courtesy notices of non-meetings such as social events.
Agenda: Agendas must be available at least 24 hours before the meeting and contain information reasonably necessary to inform the public of the matters to be discussed or decided. Allowed: "Current Events”, without discussion.
Minutes: The minutes or a recording of the public session must be open for public inspection no later than three working days after the meeting. Minutes must include: •Date, time and place of meeting; •Names of members of the public body present; •A general description of matters considered; and (except for executive sessions) •An accurate description of all legal actions proposed, discussed or taken, and the names of members who propose each motion. The minutes shall also include the names, “as given”, of the persons making statements or presenting material and a reference to the subject legal action. Not recommended: Sign-in sheets or names of silent attendees. Minutes are permanent records and must be on paper. Recordings must be retained for at least 3 months and not more than 3 years.
The public has a right to •Attend •Listen •Tape record •Videotape
But has no right to: •Speak •Disrupt.
Public participation: The public may be permitted to participate in the public body’s discussions and deliberations.
Calls to the Public: This is an agenda item that allows the public to address the public body on topics of concern, even though not specifically included on the agenda. Public bodies may impose reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on speakers. Restrictions must be narrowly tailored to affect a compelling state interest and may not be content based. An individual public officer may respond to criticism, ask staff to review an item or ask that an item be placed on a future agenda, but he or she may not dialogue with the presenter or collectively discuss, consider, or decide an item that is not listed on the agenda.
Public bodies may hold private executive sessions under a few limited circumstances. In executive sessions, the public is not allowed to attend or listen to the discussions, and the members of the public body may not vote or take a poll in executive sessions.
There are only seven authorized topics for executive sessions:
1.Personnel, unless subject demands public mtg (must provide 24 hours written notice to employee).
2.Discussion or consideration of records exempt by law from public inspection.
3.Legal advice* – with public body’s own lawyer(s).
4.Discussion or consultation with public body’s lawyer(s) to consider litigation, settlement discussions, negotiated contracts.
5.Discuss and instruct its representative regarding labor negotiations.
6.Discuss international, interstate, and tribal negotiations.
7.Purchase, sale, or lease of real property.
Agendas for executive sessions may describe the matters to be discussed more generally than agendas for public meetings, but must provide more than a recital of the statute that authorizes the executive session.
*The only persons allowed to attend an executive session are the members of the public body, the public body’s attorney, and employees and agents of both whose presence is necessary to obtain the legal advice. Once the legal advice has been obtained, the public body must go back into public session unless some other executive session topic has been identified in the notice.Discussion between the members of the public body about what action should be taken is beyond the realm of legal advice, and such discussions must be held in public session.
Minutes of and discussions made at executive sessions shall be kept confidential except from: •Members of the public body, •Officers, appointees or employees who were the subject of discussion, •The auditor general on a request made in connection with an audit, •A county attorney or the attorney general when investigating alleged violations of this article. The public body shall instruct attendees at an executive session of these confidentiality requirements.
Circumvention of the Open Meeting Law.
Discussions between less than a majority of the public body, or other devices to circumvent the purposes of the Open Meeting Law violate that law. Public officials may not circumvent public discussion by splintering the quorum and having separate or serial discussions by meeting in person, by telephone, electronically, or through other means to discuss a topic that may be presented to the public body for a decision.
Communicating through an administrator or other third party has no effect upon its properness or improperness.
It is not a violation if a member of a public body expresses an opinion or discusses an issue with the public either at a venue other than at a public meeting, personally, through the media or other form of public broadcast communication or through technological means if: 1) The opinion or discussion is not principally directed at or directly given to another member of the public body. 2) There is no concerted plan to engage in collective deliberation to take legal action.
A quorum of the public body may discuss outside of a public meeting the choice of dates for a public meeting.
Electronic communications among a quorum of the board are subject to the same restrictions that apply to all other forms of communications among a quorum of the board. While some unilateral electronic communications from a board member to a quorum would not violate open meeting law, a board member may not put forward for consideration, discussion, or adoption any legal action unless the electronic communication meets the other criteria for an open meeting (agenda, public access, minutes).
A board member may e-mail staff and a quorum of the board proposing that a matter be placed on a future agenda. Proposing that the board have the opportunity to consider a subject at a future public meeting, without more, does not propose legal action, and, therefore, would not violate the OML.
If a staff member or a member of the public e-mails a quorum of members of the public body, and there are no further e-mails among board members, there is no OML violation.
One board member on a three-member board may e-mail a unilateral communication to another board member concerning facts or opinions relating to board business, but board members may not respond to the e-mail because an exchange between two members would be a discussion by a quorum.
A board member may copy other board members on an e-mailed response to a constituent inquiry without violating the OML because this unilateral communication would not constitute discussions, deliberations or taking legal action by a quorum of the board members.
An e-mail request by a board member to staff for specific information does not violate the OML, even if the other board members are copied on the e-mail. The superintendent may reply to all without violating the OML as long as that response does not communicate opinions of other board members. However, if board members reply in a communication that includes a quorum, that would constitute a discussion or deliberation and therefore violate the OML.