Title 1: General Provisions
Chapter 5: COMMON LAW; GENERAL RIGHTS
Sub-Chapter 2: Public Information
1 V.S.A. § 312. Right to attend meetings of public agencies
§ 312. Right to attend meetings of public agencies
(a)(1) All meetings of a public body are declared to be open to the public at all times, except as provided in section 313 of this title. No resolution, rule, regulation, appointment, or formal action shall be considered binding except as taken or made at such open meeting, except as provided under subdivision 313(a)(2) of this title. A meeting of a public body is subject to the public accommodation requirements of 9 V.S.A. chapter 139. A public body shall electronically record all public hearings held to provide a forum for public comment on a proposed rule, pursuant to 3 V.S.A. § 840. The public shall have access to copies of such electronic recordings as described in section 316 of this title.
(2) Participation in meetings through electronic or other means.
(A) As long as the requirements of this subchapter are met, one or more of the members of a public body may attend a regular, special, or emergency meeting by electronic or other means without being physically present at a designated meeting location.
(B) If one or more members attend a meeting by electronic or other means, such members may fully participate in discussing the business of the public body and voting to take an action, but any vote of the public body shall be taken by roll call.
(C) Each member who attends a meeting without being physically present at a designated meeting location shall:
(i) identify himself or herself when the meeting is convened; and
(ii) be able to hear the conduct of the meeting and be heard throughout the meeting.
(D) If a quorum or more of the members of a public body attend a meeting without being physically present at a designated meeting location, the following additional requirements shall be met:
(i) At least 24 hours prior to the meeting, or as soon as practicable prior to an emergency meeting, the public body shall publicly announce the meeting, and a municipal public body shall post notice of the meeting in or near the municipal clerk's office and in at least two other designated public places in the municipality.
(ii) The public announcement and posted notice of the meeting shall designate at least one physical location where a member of the public can attend and participate in the meeting. At least one member of the public body, or at least one staff or designee of the public body, shall be physically present at each designated meeting location.
(b)(1) Minutes shall be taken of all meetings of public bodies. The minutes shall cover all topics and motions that arise at the meeting and give a true indication of the business of the meeting. Minutes shall include at least the following minimal information:
(A) all members of the public body present;
(B) all other active participants in the meeting;
(C) all motions, proposals, and resolutions made, offered, and considered, and what disposition is made of same; and
(D) the results of any votes, with a record of the individual vote of each member if a roll call is taken.
(2) Minutes of all public meetings shall be matters of public record, shall be kept by the clerk or secretary of the public body, and shall be available for inspection by any person and for purchase of copies at cost upon request after five days from the date of any meeting. Meeting minutes shall be posted no later than five days from the date of the meeting to a website, if one exists, that the public body maintains or has designated as the official website of the body.
(c)(1) The time and place of all regular meetings subject to this section shall be clearly designated by statute, charter, regulation, ordinance, bylaw, resolution, or other determining authority of the public body, and this information shall be available to any person upon request. The time and place of all public hearings and meetings scheduled by all Executive Branch State agencies, departments, boards, or commissions shall be available to the public as required under 3 V.S.A. § 2222(c).
(2) The time, place, and purpose of a special meeting subject to this section shall be publicly announced at least 24 hours before the meeting. Municipal public bodies shall post notices of special meetings in or near the municipal clerk's office and in at least two other designated public places in the municipality, at least 24 hours before the meeting. In addition, notice shall be given, either orally or in writing, to each member of the public body at least 24 hours before the meeting, except that a member may waive notice of a special meeting.
(3) Emergency meetings may be held without public announcement, without posting of notices and without 24-hour notice to members, provided some public notice thereof is given as soon as possible before any such meeting. Emergency meetings may be held only when necessary to respond to an unforeseen occurrence or condition requiring immediate attention by the public body.
(4) Any adjourned meeting shall be considered a new meeting, unless the time and place for the adjourned meeting is announced before the meeting adjourns.
(5) A person may request in writing that a public body notify the person of special meetings of the public body. The request shall apply only to the calendar year in which it is made, unless made in December, in which case it shall apply also to the following year.
(d)(1) At least 48 hours prior to a regular meeting, and at least 24 hours prior to a special meeting, a meeting agenda shall be:
(A) posted to a website, if one exists, that the public body maintains or designates as the official website of the body; and
(B) in the case of a municipal public body, posted in or near the municipal office and in at least two other designated public places in the municipality.
(2) A meeting agenda shall be made available to a person prior to the meeting upon specific request.
(3)(A) Any addition to or deletion from the agenda shall be made as the first act of business at the meeting.
(B) Any other adjustment to the agenda may be made at any time during the meeting.
(e) Nothing in this section or in section 313 of this title shall be construed as extending to the Judicial Branch of the Government of Vermont or of any part of the same or to the Public Service Board; nor shall it extend to the deliberations of any public body in connection with a quasi-judicial proceeding; nor shall anything in this section be construed to require the making public of any proceedings, records, or acts which are specifically made confidential by the laws of the United States of America or of this State.
(f) A written decision issued by a public body in connection with a quasi-judicial proceeding need not be adopted at an open meeting if the decision will be a public record.
(g) The provisions of this subchapter shall not apply to site inspections for the purpose of assessing damage or making tax assessments or abatements, clerical work, or work assignments of staff or other personnel. Routine, day-to-day administrative matters that do not require action by the public body, may be conducted outside a duly warned meeting, provided that no money is appropriated, expended, or encumbered.
(h) At an open meeting the public shall be given a reasonable opportunity to express its opinion on matters considered by the public body during the meeting as long as order is maintained. Public comment shall be subject to reasonable rules established by the chairperson. This subsection shall not apply to quasi-judicial proceedings.
(i) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the Parole Board from meeting at correctional facilities with attendance at the meeting subject to rules regarding access and security established by the superintendent of the facility. (Amended 1973, No. 78, § 1, eff. April 23, 1973; 1979, No. 151 (Adj. Sess.), § 2; 1987, No. 256 (Adj. Sess.), § 2; 1997, No. 148 (Adj. Sess.), § 64, eff. April 29, 1998; 1999, No. 146 (Adj. Sess.), § 7; 2013, No. 143 (Adj. Sess.), § 2.)