By: Diane Benjamin
Don’t miss the update: https://blnnews.com/2015/11/04/more-on-the-illegal-meeting/
Today an illegal meeting was held at City Hall. David Hales has divided the Council into groups of three to meet on various issues. Instead of being open and transparent by discussing City business at City Council meetings, they are meeting with no public notification as required by law. Today’s meeting was on implementing the Comprehensive Plan. Attendees included Aldermen Black, Lower, Mwilambwe, and City Manager David Hales. Other meetings are scheduled for the other Aldermen, or course they aren’t on the City calendar because the public is not supposed to know or attend. Several other citizens and I walked into the meeting today, we were told it was a “staff” meeting. Hales was the only “staff” present.
I contacted the Attorney General’s office for a definitive answer on how many Aldermen meeting together constitutes a violation of the law. The City has always claimed it’s 4, the Aldermen present probably believed what they were told. I received this response:
Dear Ms. Benjamin,
Black’s Law Dictionary defines “quorum” as: “The smallest number of people who must be present at a meeting so that official decisions can be made; specif., the minimum number of members (a majority of all the members, unless otherwise specified in the governing documents) who must be present for a deliberative assembly to legally transact business.” Black’s Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014), available at Westlaw BLACKS. How a public body is incorporated and what its governing documents provide can affect what constitutes a quorum. You may wish to consult with the applicable public body and/or the State’s Attorney’s Office in the applicable county.
Very truly yours,
Supervising Attorney, Public Access Bureau
In English, the smallest number of Aldermen that need to be present to conduct business is 5 (of 9). That means a majority of the quorum (3 of 5) present at any unannounced meeting violates the Open Meetings Act. The gentleman I spoke with said the State Attorney should be enforcing the law. I sent this email to Jason Chambers, local States Attorney: