Thursday, February 5, 2015

Research Q of the Week: A Good Bet in City Government (2/5/15)

Question: What sort of notice do we need to give about our regular meeting start time and how do we let people know if the meeting has been cancelled?

Answer:
Questions about notice are common, and the answers are largely governed by common sense.

Unlike with a football game, the general public need not be routinely notified of the start time of a regular council meeting. When it comes to the regular meeting schedule, all the city need do according to the Open Meeting Law is keep the schedule in the city offices.

There are, of course, plenty of common sense reasons for doing more than the legal minimum to let the public know. Again unlike football games, the “players” behind city council meetings can consider the situation and make practical, strategic decisions for the situation to ensure the best outcome. For this reason, cities sometimes decide to publish notice of the regular meeting, advertise it on the city’s outdoor sign, or simply post notice of meetings in other conspicuous locations.

As for cancelling a meeting, the law is silent as to how a city cancels the meeting. Again, common sense should dictate the outcome, and again that stands in stark contrast to football. In football, you can have a team down by four points with 30 seconds left in the game on second down at the one-yard line with the best running back in the league and, instead of running the ball three feet thinking gravity will take care of most of the run, they may attempt to throw it into the end zone to the surprise and disapproval of anyone who has ever coached or even played the game, causing any reasonable person to wonder why he had to lose $100 on such an outrageous decision.

Cities, on the other hand, are eminently more rational when it comes to notifying the public of canceled meetings. Although the law is silent on how to cancel a meeting (as silent, say, as the pain of a Monday morning dig from a Facebook “friend” and fan of the opposing team), cities often post notice of a cancellation in conspicuous locations, staff may perhaps call any particular individuals they know were planning on attending or whatever else makes sense for the given community or given meeting.

You can check out the Meetings of City Councils information memo for more info.

Written by Edward Cadman, special counsel with the League of Minnesota Cities. Edward spends every Sunday glued to Downton Abbey. Contact: ecadman@lmc.org or (651) 281-1229.


This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information. 

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