to the Open Meeting Law
(Part 1 in a 3-part series)
1960s saw the advent throughout the country of legislative initiatives
calling for open government. Arizona responded to these initiatives with
the passage of the Open Meeting Law (A.R.S. Sections 38-431 through -533).
In 1962, the Arizona legislature declared it public policy "that
proceedings in meetings of governing bodies of the state and political
subdivisions thereof exist to aid in the conduct of people's business.
It is the intent of [the Open Meeting Law] that their official deliberations
and proceedings be conducted openly."
Since Maricopa's Governing Board, as well as the State Board of Directors
for Community Colleges, is subject to the Open Meeting Law, In Brief
begins a three-part series that details the essential elements of
this statute. Any review of the Open Meeting Law begins with the threshold
question of whether the business of a particular public agency is subject
to that law. Not all governmental entities must hold their meetings in
full view of the public; rather, the law applies only to what it calls
Under the Open Meeting Law, a "public body" includes the legislature,
all boards and commissions of the state or political subdivisions and
all multi-member governing bodies of departments, agencies, institutions
and instrumentalities of the state or political subdivisions. The term
also includes "quasi-judicial bodies," as well as "all
standing, special or advisory committees or subcommittees of, or appointed
by" a public body.
No doubt the key provision of the Open Meeting Law is its requirement
that "[a]ll meetings of any public body shall be public meetings
and all persons so desiring shall be permitted to attend and listen to
the deliberations and proceedings."
A public body may choose to allow public comment on topics slated for
discussion during an open meeting, but allowing such comment is not required.
If a public body does opt to permit private citizens to participate in
its meeting, it often does so by reserving time for what is commonly termed
a "call to the public."
Under the Open Meeting Law, a public notice and agenda must be produced
before every meeting.
The public notice must be posted in a location that has been previously
established with the Secretary of State. The notice serves as an announcement
of the meeting, and must be posted at least twenty-four hours in advance
of the meeting.
The notice must include an agenda. The Open Meeting Law requires that
an agenda contain "the specific matters to be discussed, considered
or decided at the meeting. The public body may discuss, consider or make
decisions only on matters listed on the agenda and other matters related
Since the notice and agenda are issued simultaneously, items for discussion
or action by the public body cannot be added to its agenda less than twenty-four
hours prior to the meeting.
The law allows a public body to meet on less than twenty-four hours advance
notice in the case of an "actual emergency." Should an emergency
meeting take place, a notice declaring that such a meeting was held must
be posted within twenty-four hours after its conclusion.
In addition, all public bodies are required to take "written minutes
or a recording of all their meetings." The statute prescribes that
the minutes or recording contain at least the following:
the date, time and place of the meeting;
the members of the public body recorded as either present or absent;
a general description of all legal actions proposed, discussed, or taken,
and the names of the members who propose each motion; and
the names of persons making statements or presenting material to the
public body, as well as a reference to the legal action about which
they made statements or presentations.
minutes or recording of a public meeting must be made available for public
inspection no more than three days after the meeting.
public body may, under the Open Meeting Law, exclude the public from its
meetings when it discusses certain issues. In the next installment of
this series, In Brief will discuss the statute's provision for
in the Summer 1998 Edition of In Brief