Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Do online postings violate open-meeting laws?

Can a government official violate the open meeting law by posting to an online forum? That is the question being debated by officials in the town of Westford, Mass., according to a report in The Lowell Sun. Selectman Jim Silva's postings to the privately run site Westford Web have sparked a debate over whether he is in violation of the open meeting law.

The law requires all government meetings to be open to the public and prohibits a quorum of any government body from meeting in private for the purpose of deciding or deliberating on a matter. A spokesperson for the local district attorney's office explained the potential violation: "If you have all members of the board on a forum, you run a risk of having a situation where there is an online meeting that there is no public notice."

But Silva says the First Amendment protects his right to continue to post. "If they stretched the Open Meeting Law to the point that a single selectman can't post on an online forum," he told the Lowell Sun, "that would be a civil rights violation."

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