Adhering to Minnesota Open Meeting Law Requirements
When members of a public body come together to conduct business, citizens are generally entitled to observe and be informed about the issues and actions of their representatives. The Minnesota Open Meeting Law (OML):
- Prohibits actions being taken at secret meetings where it is impossible for the public to become fully informed about a public body’s decision or to detect improper influences.
- Assures the public’s right to be informed.
- Affords the public an opportunity to present its views to the public body.
Failure to comply with the Open Meeting Law can result in fines for the offending individuals. Fines imposed by the court are the responsibility of the individual fined. The public body cannot legally indemnify the board member for these penalties. If the board member has been found to have intentionally violated the law three or more separate and unrelated times, he or she may be removed from office. The court may also order the board member to pay costs and attorney fees to the claimant.
Key Areas of Compliance
The Open Meeting Law has several aspects to which government entities must comply. Members should pay special attention to:
- Meetings of the public body and its committees and subcommittees
- Communication among board members outside of the public meeting
- Public notification of meetings
- Discussions of not public (private) data
- Provisions for closing meetings to the public
- Distribution of materials at open meetings
- Meetings by interactive television, telephone or other electronic means (e.g., video calling)
Resources Explain the Law and Provide Risk Management Recommendations
- MCIT Resource Library: MCIT encourages members to review the resources related to the Open Meeting Law to gain a general understanding of the law and learn tips for staying in compliance with it.
- Data Practices Office of The Minnesota Department of Administration: This agency is authorized to grant advisory opinions on questions related to the Open Meeting Law. These opinions are posted to office’s website, among other educational materials about the application of the law. Although they are not binding on a government entity, the opinions are granted deference in a court proceeding involving the meeting at issue.
- MCIT Speaker Services: MCIT can provide in-person training about the Minnesota Open Meeting Law for members. Learn more on the Speaker Services page.
- Legal Counsel: MCIT strongly recommends that members consult their legal counsel when an Open Meeting Law question arises.