Email Adds Confusion to Sunshine Laws

Open meeting laws, also known as "sunshine" laws, require that meetings held to discuss public business be open to the public. Exemptions exist in cases of security or privacy, and these are documented by each state. The purpose of sunshine laws is to allow the public to participate, or have access to, matters of public interest.

What happens when city officials converse via email? Are they in fact holding a "virtual" meeting that falls under the jurisdiction of sunshine laws? With such a convenient form of communication, a school superintendent or a city official might find it easy to circulate a policy decision among his or her staff, receive feedback, and reach a policy decision, all outside the confines of a public meeting.

This simple example may (or may not) violate open meeting laws, depending on the state and whether or not email is specified in the letter of the law.

... Bob Spurzem

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