•Is a meeting of a City Manager's Committee public?


Is a meeting of a City Manager's Committee public?

"The spirit of the Sunshine Law is to promote openness, requiring that its provisions be liberally construed and their exceptions strictly construed. 
I encourage the City to err on the side of greater transparency when deciding any course of action.

- Brenda Siegler                                         
Sunshine Law Coordinator                        
Office of the Missouri Attorney General   



   When it was recently  determined that there was a "secret" committee established (unknown even to the Parks Commission) to examine the fate of the Driving Range in Ruth Park, Tom Sullivan wrote to the City Clerk requesting the posted notice for that meeting (Link).  By law that notice must be posted 24 hours in advance of the meeting.  Apparently the City Clerk and other city officials believed this committee was not subject to open meetings requirements - the Sunshine Law. 

  The issue was publicly debated, and i
n the comments of a recent article published in the University City Patch ("Committee Split on How to Resolve Issues of Noise, Lighting and Safety at Driving Range" [Link]) the Editor posted that she had "obtained from the Sunshine Law Coordinator of the Office of the Missouri Attorney General, that states essentially that since the committee was formed by the City Manager, Lehman Walker, who is not an elected official who does not qualify the committe as a public meeting.  The information from the AG's office states that the committee in question does not meet the criteria listed in Section 610.010.4, RSMo, it does not fall under the purview of the Missouri Sunshine Law." (see screen shot of statement attached below).  Several of us who are familiar with the Sunshine Law found this statement very surprising.  Did Ms. Lopez receive this information directly from the AG's office, or was it provided to her - possibly by the City Clerk or a council member who was in receipt of the city clerk's communications with the Attorney General's office? 

The Attorney General's Office was, therefore, contacted and requested to provide information regarding the status of this committee as requested by the City Clerk - Is this or any committee established by the City Manager considered a "public governmental body" and therefore subject to the Sunshine Law.?   

Even while the information provided is not on official opinion of the Attorney General (those Attorney General Opinions are officially issued and numbered), the text of the emails attached below make it clear that committees established by the City Manager for the purpose of advising the chief administrative officer
(RSMo §610.010.4(e)) can be considered  public governmental bodies subject to the Sunshine Law  - the Missouri Law of open meetings and open records.

--Paulette Carr, Gannon Ave.




From: Joyce Pumm [mailto:jpumm@ucitymo.org]
Sent: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 11:46 AM
To: Siegler, Brenda
Subject: Sunshine question


Brenda

I know I had previously talked with you about what constituted a public meeting requiring a public posting 24 hours in advance and you told me if the committee, board, advisory group, task force, etc was instituted or formed by an elected official it needed to be posted 24-hours in advance.  If the City Manager selected people to meet and come back to him with recommendations on a particular subject it was not required to be posted according to Sunshine rules but if possible it would be nice.  I am just verifying this with you.

Thanks for your help again.

Joyce Pumm
City Clerk
University City


_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________



From: Siegler, Brenda [mailto:Brenda.Siegler@ago.mo.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 1:10 PM
To: Joyce Pumm
Subject: RE: Sunshine question


Joyce,

With regard to your question about public governmental bodies, I would like to direct you to Section 610.010.4, RSMo.  This provision defines a “public governmental body” and a “quasi-governmental body” subject to Missouri’s Sunshine Law.  Specifically, Section 610.010.4(e), RSMo, on page 46 of the booklet speaks to committees appointed by or at the direction of the board.  I believe you will find this provision to be most helpful to you in determining whether particular boards and committees are subject to the Sunshine Law.

If you have any questions about this or any other Sunshine Law issue, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you,

Brenda Siegler
Sunshine Law Coordinator
Office of the Missouri Attorney General
(573) 751-8905
(573) 751-5660 (fax)
brenda.siegler@ago.mo.gov


_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________




From: Joyce Pumm [mailto:jpumm@ucitymo.org]
Sent: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 1:26 PM
To: Siegler, Brenda
Subject: RE: Sunshine question


Brenda

So can I determine that ,”any advisory committee appointed  by or at the direction of any of the named entities for the specific purpose of recommending directly to the public governmental body’s governing board” does not qualify this committee as a public meeting under the Sunshine Law, as the committee was formed by the City Manager who is not an elected official.

Thanks
Joyce


_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________




From: Siegler, Brenda <Brenda.Siegler@ago.mo.gov>
Subject: RE: Sunshine question
To: "'Joyce Pumm'" <jpumm@ucitymo.org>
Cc: "'Tom Sullivan'" <tsullivan@sullivanadv.net>
Date: Friday, April 29, 2011, 4:01 PM


Joyce,

Further research regarding this issue suggests that, at least in some instances, a subcommittee may be considered a “public governmental body.” A conclusion on that question requires legal advice and I encourage you to review the information outlined below with the attorney for your governmental body.

As noted before, Section 610.010.4, RSMo, defines a public governmental body as “any legislative, administrative or governmental entity created by the constitution or statutes of this state, by order or ordinance of any political subdivision or district, judicial entities when operating in an administrative capacity, or by executive order…”  Further, Section 610.010.4(e), RSMo, offers that a public governmental body is also “Any committee appointed by or at the direction of any of the entities and which is authorized to report to any of the above-named entities,” or “any advisory committee appointed by or at the direction of any of the named entities for the specific purpose of recommending, directly to the public governmental body’s governing board or its chief administrative officer, policy or policy revisions or expenditures of public funds …”

I would also like to direct you to Attorney General Opinion No. 129-2004.  This opinion concluded that a task force appointed by the Cape Girardeau School District’s superintendent for the purpose of making budget proposals was a public governmental body.  Of particular note is the excerpt that defines the superintendent as an “administrative entity”:

Specifically, the position of superintendent is an administrative entity created by order of the Cape Girardeau School District. Section 168.201 permits school districts such as Cape Girardeau to hire a superintendent. Pursuant to that authority, the Cape Girardeau School District has created the position of superintendent and identified its responsibilities through orders that are codified in the Cape Girardeau School District Policy Manual, a relevant portion of which is attached to this opinion. Specifically, the Policy Manual authorizes the position of school superintendent and provides that the position shall be the "chief executive officer of the Board of Education and the administrative head of all divisions and departments of the Cape Girardeau School District," among other things. This represents an "order" of the School District as that term is commonly understood. See Webster's Third New International Dictionary 1588 (7th ed. 1993) ("a rule or regulation used by a competent authority"). The terms of the School District's order identify the superintendent as an "administrative" entity and, indeed, the responsibilities and duties assigned to the superintendent by the order are those of an administrative entity. Thus, the superintendent of schools is a public governmental body as contemplated by Section 610.010(4).

Here is a link to the opinion: http://ago.mo.gov/opinions/2004/129-2004.htm
In the case of a third class city, the position of city administrator is authorized by statute (Section 77.042), and could likewise be considered a “public governmental body.” Therefore a committee appointed to report back to the city manager of a third class city would be governed by the sunshine law. The same may or may not be true for home rule cities such as University City. You will want to discuss that question with your attorney.
The spirit of the Sunshine Law is to promote openness, requiring that its provisions be liberally construed and their exceptions strictly construed.  I encourage the City to err on the side of greater transparency when deciding any course of action.

Please note that the above material is meant as an outline of relevant provisions of the Sunshine Law for your consideration and not as an official opinion of the Attorney General of the State of Missouri.  In providing this response, we do not suggest that we are providing you legal advice or otherwise treating you as a client of the Attorney General or any of his assistants.

 
Thank you for contacting this office regarding your question about the Sunshine Law.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.  Our website also has useful information on the Sunshine Law:  http://ago.mo.gov/sunshinelaw/.

Respectfully,

Brenda Siegler
Sunshine Law Coordinator
Office of the Missouri Attorney General
(573) 751-8905
(573) 751-5660 (fax)
brenda.siegler@ago.mo.gov


_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 



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• UCityCitizen.org • Paulette Carr, Ward 2 Councilmember, City of University City
• University City, Missouri 63130 •
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Paulette Carr,
Apr 29, 2011, 9:55 PM
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