Here’s the difference in agenda rules between regular and special public meetings

During a recent Annie Glidden North task force subcommittee meeting, I alleged Open Meetings Act (OMA) violations. I want to explain why.

What I objected to was the subcommittee’s addition of discussion items to the agenda of a special meeting. During regular meetings, a public body can talk about anything it wants, but that same body must stick to the published agenda when it has a special meeting.

It’s easier to understand if you unhook “notice” from “agenda.” Maybe you’ve heard of the rule of publishing meeting notices and agendas 48 hours in advance? The “notice” part actually differs between regular and special meetings. While you might also see meeting specifics on a regular agenda (makes sense) the notice that counts under OMA is the schedule published at the beginning of the fiscal or calendar year; the 48-hour notice applies to the agenda only. A special meeting, on the other hand, requires that the body publish 48 hours in advance the notice of the meeting and the agenda together.

Adding discussion items to a regular agenda is allowed due to the abundance of notice for regular meetings. At least hypothetically, anyone interested has enough time to arrange to attend any or all regular meetings.

The agenda rule for special meetings is tighter — no additions allowed — due to the short notice.

So back to the subcommittee meetings. These are special meetings so far, but last week at least one committee added items to its agenda. Whoever is the boss of these committees (the mayor, I hope) could decide to give them flexibility of agenda by setting up a regular meeting schedule, but until then they must stick to their agendas.

Also, could somebody please train the city staff. There were three staff members attending the meeting I observed, and none of them had a clue.

Chapter and verse:

Sec. 2.02. Public notice of all meetings, whether open or closed to the public, shall be given as follows:

(a) Every public body shall give public notice of the schedule of regular meetings at the beginning of each calendar or fiscal year and shall state the regular dates, times, and places of such meetings. An agenda for each regular meeting shall be posted at the principal office of the public body and at the location where the meeting is to be held at least 48 hours in advance of the holding of the meeting…The requirement of a regular meeting agenda shall not preclude the consideration of items not specifically set forth in the agenda…Public notice of any special meeting except a meeting held in the event of a bona fide emergency, or of any rescheduled regular meeting, or of any reconvened meeting, shall be given at least 48 hours before such meeting, which notice shall also include the agenda for the special, rescheduled, or reconvened meeting…