Government bodies have regularly-scheduled meetings each month, and when one of those bodies changes their meeting’s time and date, it’s a big thing.
A government body is there to serve the people, so they must give the public access to those meetings. We had a discussion of the open meetings law this week, because one of those government bodies had changed its meeting date once again. Sometimes dates do have to be adjusted, but of course at least 24 hours’ written public notice must be given. Only in the case of extraordinary emergency can a government body bypass the state’s “Sunhine Laws.”
In this case, one of the board members works offshore. It’s understandable the board member wants to be involved in the decision-making process, but you cannot constantly change a meeting date to fit your schedule. According to state and local laws, a government body’s regularly-scheduled meetings are addressed in its by-laws. In fact, the law states, “If a public body’s regular meetings are fixed by state or local law, written public notice of these meetings must be given (showing the dates, times and places of the meetings) every January.” It also states, “All public bodies also must post a copy of the open meetings law.”
After discussing the problem of changing meeting dates with the board member, he agreed the board would follow their regularly-scheduled meeting dates after this month. This was a simple case, which was quickly resolved. For the paper, we decided to remind everyone of these rules.
If a meeting date is changed, it could be done to prevent the public from responding to an issue being dealt with by the board. It was the example I used when addressing one of the board members of this organization. If I want to talk about this issue, and “A” calls the board member and says “Carissa” is going to speak about this issue at your meeting tonight and the board member changes the meeting date because he knows Carissa will be there, then he is preventing me from utilizing my rights as a citizen. And that folks is a violation of Louisiana’s Sunshine Law. Fortunately, it was not the case here, but all board members should remember this when they are dealing with the nuts and bolts of government.
And as we’ve learned over the years, there might not be anyone at that next board meeting exercising their rights as a citizen, but if they need to attend a meeting, their rights will be intact. The paper not only covers a meeting to report it to the public, it’s job also includes protecting the public’s interests. And I thought we should share this information with our readers as National Newspapers in Education Week comes to a close.
On another note, our corporate office has been working on our website. Yes, many have called about our paper on the Internet over the past few months. Hopefully, we might be up and running this week. You might begin seeing our paper on the internet midweek at villeplattetoday.com. Just remember this is an “under construction” site. I hope you enjoy finding us online.
Have a great day, and enjoy the weather as spring begins to arrive over the next few weeks. I’m sure we’ll continue to have a mixture of warm and cool weather as winter comes to a close and spring begins to arrives. Enjoy.