Open Meetings

Assessment of California's Open Government Reform Initiatives for 2007

Last week, the California First Amendment Coalition published an assessment of several open government reform bills in California's 2007 legislative session. The report shows that while there were some victories, several important reform proposals failed in the legislature or died on the Governor's desk.


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Massachusetts Considering Strengthening Open Meetings Law

Robert Ambrogi reports that:

The Massachusetts legislature's Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight today held a hearing on a number of open government bills and both the Senate and House chairs of the committee indicated support for measures that would add "teeth" to the law. In my capacity as executive director of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, I testified in support of House Bill 3217, an MNPA-drafted bill that would allow fines against individual board members who violate the law and allow recovery of attorneys' fees by private citizens who bring actions to enforce the law.

Let's hope the Massachusetts legislature follows through on this. While state open meetings laws can provide useful leverage in the battle to get access to the workings of government, they typically lack any real enforcement mechanisms. Oftentimes the only recourse available when a meeting has been improperly closed is to get a "ruling" by a state official -- long after the fact -- that the meeting should have been open. Allowing fines and the recovery of attorneys' fees will add some real teeth to the Massachusetts act.

You can track the status of the Massachusetts bill at




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N.C. Publisher Charged With Trespass For Refusing To Leave Closed Meeting

Tom Boney, publisher of the Alamance News, a weekly newspaper in Graham, N.C., was arrested and charged with trespass after refusing to leave the Burlington-Alamance Regional Airport Authority's monthly meeting.  According to the Burlington Times-News, Boney refused to leave the meeting after the airport authority voted to hold a private meeting to discuss a possible economic development project at the airport. 

Under North Carolina's Meetings of Public Bodies Act, all official meetings of public bodies are presumed to be open to the public.  The law permits closure only under nine enumerated circumstances.  It is unclear whether the airport authority met any of these conditions when it closed the meeting.  Even the sheriff who arrested Boney commented that he respects him for sticking to his convictions. "He's got a valid point about having access to public meetings," the sheriff told the Burlington Times-News.

Boney, who has long campaigned for open government meetings, is scheduled to appear in court on June 25 to address the misdemeanor trespassing charge.

UPDATE: The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press reported that the district attorney's office dismissed the charge on July 20, 2007, saying the incident between Boney and the authority was a "civil matter."


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