Friday, July 1, 2016

FOIA and ethics filings topics at recent meetings

Last week, Association staff spoke at two conferences about issues related to the Freedom of Information Act and ethics reporting. Here’s a recap of what they discussed … 

At the SC Association of Municipal Power Systems meeting, leaders of the state’s 21 municipal electric utilities got a briefing from the Association’s Deputy Executive Director Eric Budds on several Freedom of Information Act issues. When it comes to FOIA, utility boards and commissions of public works fall under the same rules as municipal councils and other bodies appointed by council.

First, Eric briefed the group on the recent Supreme Court ruling in Brock vs. Town of Mount Pleasant. This ruling states that a public body, after leaving executive session, may only take action on a matter discussed during the closed session if the meeting agenda indicates the possibility of that action.

Read this April blog post or listen to this podcast to get details on this case and sample language that can be included on an agenda to note the possibility of action resulting from an executive session. 

Second, Eric reminded the meeting attendees about two FOIA issues from 2015 related to agendas and executive session. The General Assembly passed legislation last year that outlines the process elected bodies must use to amend an agenda after a meeting has started. This June 2015 blog post explains more.

Also, a 2015 Supreme Court case clarified language that must be used on an agenda to describe “contractual matters” to be discussed in an executive session. Get more detail in this June 2015 blog post.

At the City/County Management Association meeting, more than 100 city and county managers got a briefing from Tiger Wells, the Association’s government affairs liaison, about changes in filing ethics reports.

Tiger explained the impact of H.3186 that passed in May. It requires any official who already files a Statement of Economic Interest to now report the source and type of income they receive. This also includes disclosure of income that immediate family members receive. 

Take a look at this flow chart to get a quick summary of these new requirements.

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