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Home News Uncategorized 2024 Open Meeting Law Act 133 Information

2024 Open Meeting Law Act 133 Information

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Transparency is an essential element of open and democratic government. In Vermont, the primary means of providing transparency are the State’s open meeting law, 1 V.S.A. §§ 310-314, and the public records law, 1 V.S.A. §§ 315-320. These laws implement the command of Chapter I, Article 6 of the Vermont Constitution that officers of government are “trustees and servants” of the people and are “at all times, in a legal way, accountable to them.”

The Open Meeting Law clearly emphasizes the openness of and accessibility to government. It declares that “All meetings of a public body are declared to be open to the public at all times, except as provided in section 313 of this title [on executive sessions].” 1 V.S.A. § 312(a). The Open Meeting Law and its requirements are meant to empower the public to play an effective role as not only an active participant in government but also a check on it as well.

Every municipal board, council, commission and committees (legally defined as “public bodies”) of a municipality is required to comply with the Open Meeting Law. The Law applies when there is (1) a quorum of a public body; (2) involved in a discussion or taking action; and (3) the subject matter of the discussion is one over which the body has authority or responsibility.

Title 1 : General Provisions

Chapter 005 : Common Law; General Rights

Subchapter 002 : Public Information

(Cite as: 1 V.S.A. § 314)

§ 314. Penalty and enforcement(a) A person who is a member of a public body and who knowingly and intentionally violates the provisions of this subchapter, a person who knowingly and intentionally violates the provisions of this subchapter on behalf or at the behest of a public body, or a person who knowingly and intentionally participates in the wrongful exclusion of any person or persons from any meeting subject to this subchapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be fined not more than $500.00.

(b)(1) Prior to instituting an action under subsection (c) of this section, the Attorney General or any person aggrieved by a violation of the provisions of this subchapter shall provide the public body written notice that alleges a specific violation of this subchapter and requests a specific cure of such violation. The public body will not be liable for attorney’s fees and litigation costs under subsection (d) of this section if it cures in fact a violation of this subchapter in accordance with the requirements of this subsection.

(2) Upon receipt of the written notice of alleged violation, the public body shall respond publicly to the alleged violation within 10 calendar days by:

(A) acknowledging the violation of this subchapter and stating an intent to cure the violation within 14 calendar days; or

(B) stating that the public body has determined that no violation has occurred and that no cure is necessary.

(3) Failure of a public body to respond to a written notice of alleged violation within 10 calendar days shall be treated as a denial of the violation for purposes of enforcement of the requirements of this subchapter.

(4) Within 14 calendar days after a public body acknowledges a violation under subdivision (2)(A) of this subsection, the public body shall cure the violation at an open meeting by:

(A) either ratifying, or declaring as void, any action taken at or resulting from:

(i) a meeting that was not noticed in accordance with subsection 312(c) of this title; or

(ii) a meeting that a person or the public was wrongfully excluded from attending; or

(iii) an executive session or portion thereof not authorized under subdivisions 313(a)(1)-(10) of this title; and

(B) adopting specific measures that actually prevent future violations.

(c) Following an acknowledgment or denial of a violation and, if applicable, following expiration of the 14-calendar-day cure period for public bodies acknowledging a violation, the Attorney General or any person aggrieved by a violation of the provisions of this subchapter may bring an action in the Civil Division of the Superior Court in the county in which the violation has taken place for appropriate injunctive relief or for a declaratory judgment. An action may be brought under this section no later than one year after the meeting at which the alleged violation occurred or to which the alleged violation relates. Except as to cases the court considers of greater importance, proceedings before the Civil Division of the Superior Court, as authorized by this section and appeals therefrom, take precedence on the docket over all cases and shall be assigned for hearing and trial or for argument at the earliest practicable date and expedited in every way.

(d) The court shall assess against a public body found to have violated the requirements of this subchapter reasonable attorney’s fees and other litigation costs reasonably incurred in any case under this subchapter in which the complainant has substantially prevailed, unless the court finds that:

(1)(A) the public body had a reasonable basis in fact and law for its position; and

(B) the public body acted in good faith. In determining whether a public body acted in good faith, the court shall consider, among other factors, whether the public body responded to a notice of an alleged violation of this subchapter in a timely manner under subsection (b) of this section; or

(2) the public body cured the violation in accordance with subsection (b) of this section. (Amended 1979, No. 151 (Adj. Sess.), § 4, eff. April 24, 1980; 1987, No. 256 (Adj. Sess.), § 5; 2013, No. 143 (Adj. Sess.), § 4; 2015, No. 129 (Adj. Sess.), § 2, eff. May 24, 2016; 2017, No. 113 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)

Submit notice of Open Meeting Law violation to the public body or the Attorney General