Minimum Attendance for a Legal Meeting
« `Assembly` means the convening of a committee for which a quorum is required to take a decision or work towards a decision. » Hawthorn. Rev. Stat. § 92-2. The law is ambiguous as to whether a quorum is required to form a meeting, although a council is generally unable to conduct formal business without a quorum. Hawthorn. Rev. Stat. § 92-15 (1996) (requires consent of majority without legal or other provision required by quorum). Like the trial court, the Court of Appeal held that the complete exclusion of the public from the COW meeting room violated the Open Meeting Act. However, it would be a mistake to read Garlock as meaning that a violation of the Open Assemblies Act occurs whenever a local government completely excludes the public from the meeting room.
The court was careful not to make such a general statement. It ruled that the exclusion of the public from the CP meeting was inappropriate in the circumstances. The Mississippi Supreme Court found that regular meetings of a number of council and mayor members over a two-month period, none of which were open to the public, violated the law. Mayor & City Council & Columbus v Commercial Dispatch, No. 2016-CC-00897 (September 7, 2017). Of course, using technology can bring its own challenges. Common issues include reluctance on the part of directors, lack of technical knowledge or access, and speed (in connection through technology) without applying other good governance practices (e.g., disseminating information prior to an early convened meeting). However, modern tools – such as board portals and board management software – are increasingly neutralizing each of these arguments and more.
The law applies to so-called walking quorums, where members of a government agency intentionally gather in a number of small groups to avoid triggering the law, but the total number of members consulted gives a quorum. See Tex. Att`y Gen. op. cit. GA-326 (2005); see also Foreman v. Whitty, 392 pp.3d 265, 277 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 2012, without pet). The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals declared the bill`s previous conversion quorum provision unconstitutional.
See State v. Doyal, No.-0254-18, 2019 WL 944022, at *6 (Tex. Crim. App. 27 Feb. 2019). The Legislative Assembly responded by amending section 551.143(a) to punish a member of council who had at least one private public business meeting with another government official, knowing that the communication would be part of a series of communications between a quorum of members. Texas Government Code § 551.143(a).
(a) Any person may attend any meeting on a matter of substantial interest, unless the meeting has been scheduled as a closed session. For meetings that do not involve matters of substantial interest, the chair of the meeting may, at his or her discretion, allow the participation of a member of the public. « Unless otherwise provided by law, a majority of the voting members of a government agency constitute a quorum. » Alabama Code § 36-25A-2(12). However, a public sector body cannot avoid quorum by holding continuous meetings in camera between two or more committee members in certain circumstances. Ala Code. § 36-25A-13. To ensure that board meetings are productive, some organizations justify keeping quorum low, as board attendance can be unpredictable. However, as the average board size decreases, the low quorum may mean that just two or three people – or a majority of the four directors present, who represent one-third of the quorum of a 12-member board – could change the direction of an entire corporation with a legal vote. The absence of this scenario is enough of an opportunity for all board members to ask questions and bring a diverse perspective to a lively discussion. The quorum is usually made up of a group considered as large as possible to attend all company meetings, which is a qualitative assessment. The plural of a quorum is « quora ».
The Garlock plaintiffs alleged a litany of violations of the Public Assemblies Act. Some of the allegations related to the complete exclusion of the public from the room by the respondent school board at a meeting of the « Committee of the Whole » (« COW »). At least initially, board members and school district staff occupied every chair in the room. The COW did not change rooms, although a larger room was immediately available in the same building. Council provided a separate room where the public could watch the live broadcast of the CP meeting. In addition, the CP meeting was webcast live. (i) meetings between Agency staff (other than Members of the Commission and their personal assistants) and an external party where the Advocate General or his representative determines that exceptional circumstances require the meeting to be held in camera. Requests for exemption of officials reporting to the Executive Director may be made in writing to the Advocate General or his delegate only by the Executive Director or his representative.
In that case, the reasons for the closed meeting or part of the meeting are set out in the notice of the public calendar announcing the meeting; A committee member may vote by absentee ballot (or by teleconference if the vote is recorded to identify each person and show how the person voted). RO 44.62.600. Postal voting does not in itself constitute a meeting, but the Attorney General recommended to the authorities that all postal voting documents contain a note that sometimes states: « The measures of the board of directors in this matter must be taken by postal vote in accordance with AS 44.62.600. Due to open meeting requirements in this state, members are reminded not to discuss this issue among themselves. 5 July 1994 Attorney General`s Notice No. 663-94-0569. The majority must be present.