BOSTON – Attorney General Maura Healey today released an annual report highlighting the activities of her office’s Division of Open Government, which is responsible for enforcing the Open Meeting Law (OML).
In 2019, the AG’s Office received 324 new OML complaints, issued 170 determination letters, and resolved a historic total of 351 complaints. By comparison, the Division resolved 235 complaints in 2018 and 249 complaints in 2017.
“Our Division of Open Government offers many resources to help educate the public about the Open Meeting Law and its requirements,” said AG Healey. “This report demonstrates the record amount of work we did in 2019 to resolve complaints and promote good governance and transparency across the state.”
The AG’s Division of Open Government was created in 2010 to ensure a continued and consistent focus on the law by educating individuals and public bodies about the OML, enforcing the OML, and acting as a readily accessible resource for public bodies.
The most frequently occurring violations in 2019 were:
Insufficiently detailed meeting notices.
Failure to approve meeting minutes in a timely manner.
Failure to properly respond to requests for meeting minutes.
Convening in executive session for an improper purpose.
Failure to follow appropriate procedures for entering executive session.
The remedial actions most frequently ordered by the Division were:
Ensuring immediate and future compliance with the OML.
Creation or approval of open session minutes.
Release or revision of executive session minutes.
Attendance at a training on the OML or review of all or part of the AG’s online training video.
The AG’s Office also continued to focus on education to help ensure compliance with the law, including a monthly newsletter with OML guidance, updates on training opportunities, and Division news to nearly 530 subscribers. The Division also offered eight regional in-person trainings on the OML in towns throughout the state and held 11 live web-based trainings on the law. The Division participated in training events with the Massachusetts Town Clerks Association, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, and Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education Inc. In 2019, the AG’s OML hotline responded by telephone and email to nearly 2,000 inquiries seeking guidance on the requirements of the law.
More information and resources about the OML can be found on the AG’s OML website.