"The purpose of the Open Meeting Law is to ensure transparency in the deliberations on which public policy is based. Because the democratic process depends on the public having knowledge about the considerations underlying governmental action, the Open meeting Law requires, with some exceptions, that meetings of public bodies be open to the public. It also seeks to balance the public's interest in witnessing the deliberations of public officials with the government's need to manage its operations efficiently."
This quote is the first paragraph of the Open Meeting Law Guide provided by Attorney General Maura Healey which is meant as a tool for municipal employees. The Open Meeting Law is fundamental to a democratic process because it ensures public access to the operation of government. The Town Clerk's office plays a vital role in maintaining observance of the principles of the Open Meeting Law. Massachusetts law requires all meetings of any governmental body to be filed with the Town Clerk and publicly posted at least 48 hours (excluding Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays) prior to the meeting being held.
The Town Clerk's Office provides each new member of a board or committee with a copy of the Open Meeting Law Guide from the Attorney General's office along with a copy of the Conflict of interest Law. A copy of the Open Meeting Law Guide is available by clicking the following link:
All Town committees are required to follow the Open Meeting Law, M.G.L. c. 30A, §§ 18-25 (Effective July 1, 2015) and 940 CMR 29.00. Open Meetings For more information please visit the official Open Meeting Law website.
Open Meeting Law Quick Facts
- 48 Hour Notice is required. All public bodies (i.e. Committees, Boards, subcommittees) are required to post a meeting or work session notice and agenda 48 hours before holding a meeting. The 48 hour time period does not include Saturdays, Sundays or legal Holidays.
- Meeting notices must include committee name, location, date, time and agenda.
- Notices must include an agenda or list of topics anticipated to be discussed at the meeting. Common meeting practices such as taking roll call or adjourning the meeting do not need to be posted on the notice but any deliberations or discussion topics should be.
- The items listed as the agenda are those reasonably anticipated by the Chair, which may be discussed at the meeting. Not all items listed may in fact be discussed and other items not listed may also be brought up for discussion to the extent permitted by law.
- Meeting notices are to be filed with the Town Clerk’s office.
- OFFICIAL MEETING POSTINGS - TOWN WEBSITE: Effective January 1, 2019, the official meeting postings for public bodies is the Town of Lakeville's website (www.lakevillema.org). Our municipal website fulfills the meeting notice requirements of the Open Meeting Law. Original copies of meeting postings will be maintained in a binder in the Town Clerk's Office available for public view during office hours. Use of the bulletin board outside the Town Hall will be discontinued for public meeting postings.
- Official minutes must contain detailed information: names of members, summaries of matters discussed, a list of documents used and all decisions made and the actions taken, including a record of all votes (yeas, nays and abstentions). Documents and other exhibits (i.e. maps, photos) need to be kept as part of the official record of the session.
- The Law requires that such minutes be made available to the public within a reasonable period of time after the conclusion of any given meeting. A time frame of two to four weeks may be considered reasonable under most circumstances but isn't mandatory.
- Citizens making complaints of Open Meeting Law violations must file written complaints with the public body first within 30 days of the violation. Then the body submits reply to complainant and Attorney General’s Office.
PLEASE NOTE: ANY PUBLIC MEETING NOTICES ON THE TOWN WEBSITE ARE NOT PROBABLY FILED UNLESS FIRST FILED WITH THE TOWN CLERK'S OFFICE AND POSTED PROPERLY ON THE MEETING CALENDAR BY THE TOWN CLERK'S OFFICE.
Oath of Office
New or reappointed members of a board or committee need to be sworn in by the Town Clerk. Please call to make an appointment, due to the Town Hall closure.
How to Post a Meeting
All meetings and work sessions must be posted with the Town Clerk's office. Meeting notices need to be time stamped in at the Town Clerk’s office and posted on the bulletin board at the Town Hall a minimum of 48 hours before the meeting is to take place. The 48 hour time period does not include Saturdays, Sundays or legal Holidays.
Meeting notices must contain the full proper name of the committee, date, time, location, and list the topics that the Chair reasonably anticipates will be discussed at the meeting. The listing of topics must contain enough specificity to give the public an understanding of each topic that will be discussed. It is not sufficient to list broad topic categories, such as “Old Business.” New Business may be used for public comment/open forum periods.
Committees are required to maintain accurate minutes of all meetings. The minutes, which must be created and approved in a timely manner, must state the committee name as appointed (no abbreviations), date, time and place of the meeting, a list of the members present and absent, the decisions made, and actions taken, including a record of all votes. The minutes must include a summary of the discussions on each subject. In addition, the minutes must include a list of documents and any other exhibits used at the meeting. A copy of meeting minutes need to be kept on file at the Town Clerk's office. Documents and exhibits do not need to be filed but should be kept with the Committee's records.
The law requires that all approved minutes be made available to the public within a reasonable period of time. A time frame of two to four weeks is considered reasonable, but not mandatory. If meeting minutes are requested by the public, they must be made available within 10 days, whether they have been approved or are in draft form.
While all meetings of public bodies must be open to the public, certain topics may be discussed in executive, or closed, session. Before going into an executive session, the chair of the committee must: first convene in open session, state the reason for the session without compromising the purpose for which the session was called, state whether the public body will reconvene at the end of the session and take a roll call of the committee that enter the session. For more information on Executive Session, please click here to visit the Attorney General's website.
Filing a Complaint
If you believe that a state, county or municipal employee has violated the open meeting law, you can file a complaint with the Attorney General's office. Information on the complaint process can be found here.
Attorney General's Office Contact Information
The Attorney General's office is responsible for reviewing any concerns regarding potential Open Meeting Law violations. To contact the Attorney General's Office or to obtain additional information on the open meeting law, go to www.mass.gov/ago/ or you may contact them at:
Southeastern Massachusetts Office
Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
105 William Street
New Bedford, MA 02740-6257
Telephone: (508) 990-9700
TTY: (617) 727-4765
Fax: (508) 990-8686
REGULATIONS, GUIDES AND FORMS
- Open Meeting Law Guide (Updated January 2018)
- The Open Meeting Law, G.L.C.30A,§§18-25
- The Attorney Generals' Regulations, 940 CMR 29.00-29.11
- Certificate of Receipt of Open Meeting Law Materials
- Open Meeting Law Complaint Form
- Public Body Checklist for Posting a Meeting Notice (AG 9/25/2017)
- Public Body Checklist for Creating and Approving Meeting Minutes (AG 9/25/2017)
- Public Body Checklist for Entering into Executive Session (AG 3/12/2013)