By Tigerron Wells, Municipal Association's Government Affairs Liaison
On September 16, I had the opportunity to testify before a Senate study committee looking at issues related to the Freedom of Information Act. The committee is comprised of Senators Larry Martin of Pickens (Chairman), Chip Campsen of Charleston, Gerald Malloy of Darlington and Shane Massey of Aiken.
The committe met to begin discussing, among other issues, proposed legislation that will address agendas and amending agendas for public bodies’ regularly scheduled meetings.
The agenda issue resulted from the June 2014 SC Supreme Court decision, Lambries v. Saluda County. This ruling concluded that the law says an agenda is not required for a regularly scheduled meeting of a public body. Neither does the law prohibit regular meeting agendas from being amended at the time of the meeting.
Read more about the original Lambries v. Saluda County Court of Appeals decision in Uptown and the Association's position on the June 2014 Supreme Court decision in the City Connect blog post.
During the study committee meeting, I reiterated to committee members the Municipal Association’s position that cities and towns should continue following the customary practice of creating and posting agendas for regularly scheduled meetings at least 24 hours before such meetings. An agenda is critical to conducting a meeting effectively and efficiently.
I also noted to the committee members that a public body should not be restricted from taking up issues that are not included on an agenda at the time of the meeting. Agendas, after all, are important tools of order, but should not limit a public body’s ability to handle important public business that may come up unexpectedly after an agenda has been posted. Of course, changes should only be made under narrow and unavoidable circumstances.
The senators appeared to be in agreement that the FOIA should be amended to specifically require an agenda for regularly scheduled meetings.
It seems that the discussion on this issue in January will revolve around how, or if, items could be added to the agenda at the meeting. The committee will continue to meet between now and January. Stay tuned for more details.