SJC: MARY ALICE BOELTER vs. WAYLAND BOARD OF SELECTMEN

KeywordOpen Meeting Law. Municipal Corporations, Open meetings, Selectmen. Moot Question. Attorney General

In its decision issued today the SJC interpreted for the first time the meaning of “deliberation” as used in the state’s Open Meeting Law. The following is excerpted from that decision:

“The plaintiffs, all registered voters in the town of Wayland (town, brought this action in the Superior Court to challenge the procedure by which the board of selectmen of Wayland (board) conducted the 2012 performance review of the town administrator.  The chair of the board had circulated to all board members, in advance of the public meeting where the town administrator’s evaluation was to take place, board members’ individual written evaluations, as well as a composite written evaluation, of the town administrator’s performance.  The board made public all written evaluations after the open meeting.  The issue before us is whether the board violated the Massachusetts open meeting law, G. L. c. 30A, §§ 18 and 20 (a), which generally requires public bodies to make their meetings, including “deliberations,” open to the public. . . .

We conclude further that the procedure the board followed in conducting the town administrator’s evaluation did violate the open meeting law.  In making this determination, we consider, for the first time, the meaning of the open meeting law’s exemption to the definition of “[d]eliberation,” which became effective in July, 2010, that permits members of public bodies to distribute to each other “reports or documents that may be discussed at a meeting, provided that no opinion of a member is expressed.”

Click here for the full text of the SJC’s decision.

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