Condos Pushes For Clarification Of Open Meeting Law

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(Host) Secretary of State Jim Condos says it’s important for lawmakers to make some key changes this winter to Vermont’s Open Meeting law, to make the operations of local and state government more transparent.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Condos says it’s been a number of years since the state’s Open Meeting law has been closely reviewed. For the past two months, he’s been traveling around the state talking to local officials about the key elements of the law.

Condos says it’s clear from these meetings that there are a number of areas where there’s some confusion about the law should be applied and he’s hoping that the Legislature will resolve most of these issues.

(Condos) "I think just clarification more than anything. There’s a lot of clarification that went on with the Access to Public Records law and I think that we need some more with the issues of the Open Meeting Law as well. And I think there are some points of clarification around executive session, around notice, around the minutes, the opportunity of the public to be heard."

(Kinzel) There are roughly 260 exemptions to the state’s Open Meeting and Public Records law.  Condos says his goal is to significantly reduce this number.

(Condos) "This is about accountability. This is about accessibility and it’s about our democracy with a small d and it really is important that the public has the right to know what their government is doing."

(Kinzel) Condos says the Open Meeting law also needs to be reviewed because the law has not kept pace with new technological advances including the use of computers.

(Condos) "If you’re having an email exchange and the email exchange is really about passing along information back and forth that’s one thing but if you’re actually making decisions that starts to go into the area of whether you’re violating the Open Meeting Law. It’s not clear and we have no court cases that have set a precedent or decided the issue for us yet."

(Kinzel) Both the House and Senate Government Operations committees are expected to make this issue a top priority in the 2012 session.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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