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Public Access Opinion 19-012

Taking Final Action on Matter Not Sufficiently Identified on Meeting Agenda

Open Meetings Act - OMA
Case: Public Access Opinion 19-012
Date: Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Newton City Council (City) violated OMA by approving an ordinance without providing sufficient advance notice of that final action on the meeting agenda.

On its August 20, 2019 meeting agenda, the City listed the following as Agenda item 8.d.: “[c]onsider and act on Ordinance 19-11 to Amend Section 33-4-4(F).” The agenda did not specify what Ordinance 19-11 concerned and this omission was submitted to the PAC for review.

Section 2.02(c) of OMA states that, “[a]ny agenda required under this Section shall set forth the general subject matter of any resolution or ordinance that will be the subject of final action at the meeting.” The PAC noted that while the term “general subject matter” is ambiguous, legislative debate on Section 2.02(c) indicates the General Assembly intended that agendas provide sufficient detail to notify members of the public of the types of final actions public bodies anticipate taking at their meetings. Because Agenda item 8.d. only provided an ordinance number and did not identify the general subject matter at issue – application fees for permits - or incorporate the relevant City Code provision by reference or hyperlink, the City violated Section 2.02(c). As a result, the PAC ordered the City to reconsider its August 20, 2019 final action on the fee ordinance at a properly noticed meeting with an agenda containing the general subject matter of that ordinance.

This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law.