Sunshine Law & the Tentative Agenda

Dec 4, 2013 by

Sunshine Law & the Tentative Agenda

Allowing citizens to participate in government is one of the fundamental principles of democracy. The Missouri Sunshine law outlines standards for governmental agencies to ensure that they open their information to the general public. One of those standards requires agencies to provide notice of their upcoming meetings so that the public can attend. And the law outlines specific requirements for those notices that ensure the public has certain details about the upcoming meeting.

Before each meeting, a public agency must post a notice of the meeting that provides the date, time and place of the upcoming meeting. If local news agencies have requested notice of the meetings, the agency should send copies of the notice to those news outlets. The notice should also be posted in a public place at the agency’s primary business location, or at the location where the meeting is held.

In addition to the above details, the notice of the meeting should include a tentative agenda to be followed by the public body. There is nothing in the statute that limits the agency’s ability to alter or add to the tentative agenda at the actual meeting itself, as the law only requires a tentative agenda. Some public agencies begin their meetings by offering the opportunity for members to add items to the agenda. Although publishing every item to be discussed is certainly a best practice, agencies are not prevented from adding items by law.

The notice for the meeting must be posted at least twenty-four hours before the scheduled meeting, unless an emergency situation dictates otherwise. In the event of such an emergency, the agency should take care to note the emergency in the meeting minutes, so that there is a clear record of what events prevented the posting of the notice in advance.

Complying with the Missouri Sunshine law not only protects the public agency from lawsuits, but it also ensures that the citizens of the community have a fair opportunity to participate in the business of our government. And since citizen participation is one of the founding principles of the United States democracy, it is certainly a goal worth putting a little extra time into pursuing.

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