Question: Does a public body violate the Open Meeting Act by reconvening a meeting at a time different from the one announced?

Rogers County commissioners on Monday recessed their regular weekly meeting shortly before 11 a.m., announcing they would reconvene at 6 p.m. for a joint meeting with the Claremore City Council.

Instead, according to the meeting minutes, the meeting was reconvened at 3 p.m. with a single city council member to discuss locations for a new courthouse and E911 facility. (At the end of this posting is the relevant section from the meeting minutes.)

John M. Wylie II, publisher of The Oologah Lake Leader, said the newspaper was not notified of the time change for the reconvened meeting.

This change in meeting times seems a serious violation of the Open Meeting Act, which states:
In the event any meeting is to be continued or reconvened, public notice of such action, including date, time and place of the continued meeting, shall be given by announcement at the original meeting. (OKLA. STAT. tit. 25, § 311(A)(10))

The Legislature clearly intended for anyone attending the original meeting to know when and where the meeting would be reconvened. So it must have intended for the public body to actually meet at that time and location.

Otherwise, the Open Meeting Act's language is pointless because a public body could say it was going to reconvene at a certain time and then meet secretly at an earlier time.

Which, it seems, is exactly what happened in Rogers County on Monday. Commissioners met three hours earlier than they said they would.

If you have encountered this situation with a public body, please share it with me or Wylie.

Minutes of Rogers County Commission regular meeting on Aug. 16:
Chairman Thacker made a motion to recess the meeting until 6:00 P.M. tonight to attend the City of Claremore Council Meeting with Commissioner Helm seconding the motion.

Chairman Thacker called the recessed meeting back to order at 3:00 P.M. with Commissioner Dan DeLozier and Commissioner Mike Helm present and quorum established.

Chairman Thacker stated let the record show that City of Claremore councilman Don Myers is present at the meeting and would like to discuss Item 15 Agenda Items #3, “discussion with possible action regarding locations of new Courthouse and E911 Facility” –

Myers stated the City of Claremore is adamant about having a stand-alone E911 Center, that is how they helped sell it to the people for a vote; City of Claremore has no intentions of withdrawing at this time; soon as Board of County Commissioner’s make a decision, it will help the city; difficulty we’ve been having is lack of communication and understanding the Board of County Commissioners are making the decisions, not the courthouse committee; requested a joint city-county meeting on September 7, 2010, to further discuss and give an update on the E911 Center.

Chairman Thacker stated there needed to be better communications between both the city and county; would get a handle on the committee.

Commissioner Helm stated he would not be on the same page, if he needed to vote to put the E911 Center in the basement, he would vote to do so; do what is best all around.

Myers discussed possibility of city having some property to be looked at for building the new E911 Center; and maybe eliminate the cost of the land; new Fire Chief has expertise and could be beneficial with input on new E911 Center.

Discussion only, no action taken.

Chairman Thacker made a motion to adjourn the meeting with Commissioner DeLozier seconding the motion. Roll Call: Thacker-aye, DeLozier-aye, Helm-aye. Motion carried and meeting adjourned at 3:21 P.M.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Media and Strategic Communication
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, or its board of directors. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.