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AG’s Office Releases Annual Report on Unprecedented Efforts in 2021 to Enforce and Ensure Compliance with the Open Meeting Law 

BOSTONAttorney General Maura Healey today announced an annual report highlighting the activities of her office’s Division of Open Government, which is responsible for enforcing the Open Meeting Law (OML), demonstrating another “remarkable year” for the division in 2021.

According to the report, in 2021, the AG’s Office received a record-high 406 OML complaints for review, issued a record 202 determination letters, and resolved a total of 350 complaints.

“The Division of Open Government is a key resource for public bodies and Massachusetts residents seeking information and guidance on the Open Meeting Law,” said AG Healey. “Especially throughout the pandemic, the Division has played a critical role in ensuring that all stakeholders can participate transparently, reliably and safely in the work of our public bodies.”

The AG’s Division of Open Government was created in 2010 to ensure a continued and consistent focus on the law by educating individuals and public bodies about the OML, enforcing the OML, and acting as a readily accessible resource for public bodies.

Throughout 2021, the Division worked to implement and provide guidance on changes made in 2020 and 2021 to the Open Meeting Law which, for the first time, allowed public bodies to hold meetings remotely. The Division has also advocated for legislation that would make permanent some of the flexibility permitted during the pandemic, in keeping with the OML’s objectives of transparency, convenience, and access by the public.

The most frequently occurring violations in 2021 were:

  • Insufficiently specific meeting notices.
  • Failure to release meeting minutes.
  • Meetings not accessible to the public, and
  • Deliberation outside of a posted meeting.

The remedial actions most frequently ordered by the AG’s Division were:

  • Immediate and future compliance with the OML,
  • Creation or approval of open session minutes,
  • Release or revision of executive session minutes, and
  • Attendance at a training on the OML or review of all or part of the AG’s online training videos.

To help individuals who are subject to the OML comply with its requirements, the Division has continued to devote significant time and resources to education and training. During 2021, the Division continued to host its live, interactive webinars one to two times per month at varying times of day, during both daytime and evening hours. The Division also provided training on the Open Meeting Law to trustees of boards of public higher education as part of their mandatory training curriculum, to various state boards and commissions as well as other organizations, and presented at Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) seminars. The Division continues to maintain a robust website containing updated OML guidance and educational materials, as well as a searchable database containing all of the Division’s determination and declination letters. 

The Division offers guidance to members of the public, public bodies, attorneys, and the press. In 2021, the Division received and responded to more than 1,800 inquiries by phone and email.

More information and resources about the OML can be found on the AG’s OML website.

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