Date: December 2018
Every year county boards typically survey the condition of roads under their jurisdictions. These are commonly known as road tours. It is important for members to understand how the Open Meeting Law (OML) applies to these on-the-go assemblies.
Open Meeting Law Basics
The Open Meeting Law generally applies to:
- A state agency, board, commission or department when it is required or permitted by law to transact public business in a meeting.
- The governing body of any school district, unorganized territory, county, city, town or other public body.
- A committee, subcommittee, board, department or commission of a public body subject to the law.
The purpose of the OML is to:
- Assure the public’s right to be informed.
- Prohibit actions from being taken at a secret meeting where it is impossible for the interested public to become fully informed concerning a public body’s decision or to detect improper influences.
- Afford the public an opportunity to present its views to the public body.
Open Meeting Law and Road Tours
During the county road tours, board members typically travel together with staff in one vehicle. They make observations and engage in discussions involving the condition of roads, priority of repairs, budget/staffing issues, etc.
The board members gain information that allows them to make future decisions regarding road work. Because of these facts, it is likely that these road tours are subject to the OML.
Although the environment of a road tour may differ significantly from a typical board meeting in a county board room, the requirements of the Open Meeting Law still apply. Because road tours are mobile, special considerations must be given to ensure the public has access to the public meeting. In practice, this means:
- road tours, like any other public meeting, must be properly noticed.
- whatever mode of transportation is used, it must be large enough to accommodate individuals from the public and media to attend.
- if the mode of transportation is not large enough for individuals who want to attend, the board will need to determine whether to reschedule the tour or take a larger mode of transportation.
- considerations for individuals with disabilities should be discussed in the event that such an individual chooses to attend, e.g., wheel chair accessible vehicle.
The application and implementation of the Open Meeting Law may vary depending on the specific facts surrounding the road tour. If legal questions arise, MCIT recommends that members consult with the county attorney or other legal counsel. To discuss coverage issues, members should contact their MCIT risk management consultants toll-free at 1.866.547.6516.