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Open meeting violation was an honest mistake

By Staff | Feb 27, 2009

The North Dakota Attorney General recently handed down opinions in regard to whether the city of Rugby violated open meeting laws. Any time a violation of the open meetings-records law is challenged, it is a serious matter.

The fact a citizen took the initiative to question whether a violation occurred in properly notifying the public of a meeting reveals that government must be mindful of its obligation to the citizens it serves. The AG’s opinion pointed out there was a violation in regard to proper notification of special or emergency meetings of the public safety committee.

In regard to this issue, The Tribune does not routinely cover public safety committee meeting or other city committee meetings – regular or special or emergency – due to time and a small staff.

However, notification must be given prior to any special meeting, enabling the newspaper to know it will take place. That way the newspaper can choose to attend, or at the very least, follow up by contacting members of the committee following the meeting.

The newspaper believes the city made an honest mistake in failing to properly post the special meetings of the public safety committee, but a mistake nonetheless.

Steps have been taken to ensure proper notification to the newspaper, and others who request it, will be made when future special meetings are called involving city committees. Also, no longer will officials simply list “other business” on special meeting agendas. Specific agenda items will be listed, as required. The Tribune has always had a good working relationship with city officials, especially in regard to notification of meetings and access to information.

The recent open meeting violations does not taint that relationship, but hopefully it will bring to light the responsibility public officials have to ensure the public is notified of its proceedings.

Government can only serve the people when it’s open government.

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