New Open Meetings Act notice requirements
Michigan’s Open Meetings Act meeting notice requirements have changed. Notices now must be on government websites, emergency meeting notice requirements have also changed.
April 17, 2013 - Author: Kurt H. Schindler, Michigan State University Extension
There is now new government meeting notice requirements in Michigan. These new requirements are a result of a 2012 amendment to the Michigan Open Meetings Act.
At the end of the 2012 legislative session, 2012 Public Act 528 was passed. This amended subsections 5(4), 5(5), and adds a section 5(7) of the Open Meetings Act (MCL 15.265). The amendments add several new requirements to the notice provisions. In particular, the notice requirements have been changed with regard to special, irregular, and emergency notices, including requirements for online publishing of these notices. The changes to the Open Meetings Act took effect Dec. 28, 2012.
Below are the key points about meeting notice postings, emergency meetings and time posted. New provisions are noted below with “[NEW].” Other points include what has previously and still is required by the Open Meetings Act.
- The public notice for a rescheduled regular or a special meeting of a public body, shall state the (1) date, (2) time, and (3) place of the meeting.
- Public notice shall be posted at least 18 hours before the meeting in a prominent and conspicuous place at public body's principal office. (When calculating the time the notice is posed one can only count the time the notice is accessible to the public. For example, if the notice is on a bulletin board inside a building which is only open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., then each day eight hours is counted toward the required 18 hours.)
- [NEW] Public notice shall be posted at least 18 hours before the meeting on the public body’s website that is fully accessible to the public (if the public body directly or indirectly maintains an official internet presence that includes monthly or more frequent updates of public meeting agendas or minutes). “The public notice on the website shall be included on either the homepage or on a separate webpage dedicated to public notices for nonregularly scheduled public meetings and accessible via a prominent and conspicuous link on the website's homepage that clearly describes its purpose for public notification of those nonregularly scheduled public meetings.”
- The requirement of 18-hour notice does not apply to special meetings of subcommittees of a public body. A legislative body (township board, village council, city council, and county board); planning commission; and zoning board of appeals are not a committee or subcommittee. The legislative body, zoning board of appeals, or planning commission might form a committee(s), and a committee might form a subcommittee(s). The exception for notices in the Open Meetings Act is only for subcommittees.
- A meeting of a public body that is recessed for more than 36 hours shall be reconvened only after public notice that is equivalent to that required above.
- A public body may meet in emergency session in the event of a severe and imminent threat to the health, safety or welfare of the public.
- Must have two-thirds of the members serving on the body decide that delay would be detrimental to efforts to lessen or respond to the threat.
- [NEW] If a public body holds an emergency public meeting that does not comply with the 18-hour posted notice requirement, it shall:
- “Make paper copies of the public notice for the emergency meeting available to the public at that meeting.”
- “The notice shall include an explanation of the reasons that the public body cannot comply with the 18-hour posted notice requirement.”
- “The explanation shall be specific to the circumstances that necessitated the emergency public meeting, and the use of generalized explanations such as ‘an imminent threat to the health of the public’ or ‘a danger to public welfare and safety’ does not meet the explanation requirements” of the Open Meetings Act.
- “Shall post the public notice of the emergency meeting and its explanation on its website” as specified above.
- “Within 48 hours after the emergency public meeting, the public body shall send official correspondence to the board of county commissioners of the county in which the public body is principally located, informing the commission that an emergency public meeting with less than 18 hours’ public notice has taken place. The correspondence shall also include the public notice of the meeting with explanation and shall be sent by either the United States postal service or electronic mail.”
- “Compliance with the notice requirements for emergency meetings in this subsection does not create, and shall not be construed to create, a legal basis or defense for failure to comply with other provisions of [the Open Meetings Act] and does not relieve the public body from the duty to comply with any provision of” the Open Meetings Act.
- [NEW] “A durational requirement for posting a public notice of a meeting under this act is the time that the notice is required to be accessible to the public.”
An updated copy of the Open Meetings Act, as amended, is available courtesy of Michigan State University Extension. An MSU Extension pamphlet, Michigan Open Meetings Act Decision Tree, is designed to help local officials and citizens answer the following two questions:
- Is a body, organization, or other meeting subject to the Michigan Open Meetings Act?
- If so, can part of that open meeting be closed to the public?
The pamphlet flow chart, or decision tree, is based on the Open Meetings Act, Michigan attorney general opinions, and case law established by Michigan courts.