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Open Meeting Law

Title 1 : General Provisions

Chapter 005 : Common Law; General Rights

Subchapter 002 : Public Information

(Cite as: 1 V.S.A. § 314)

§ 314. Penalty and enforcement


(a) A person who is a member of a public body and who knowingly and intentionally violates the provisions of this subchapter, a person who knowingly and intentionally violates the provisions of this subchapter on behalf or at the behest of a public body, or a person who knowingly and intentionally participates in the wrongful exclusion of any person or persons from any meeting subject to this subchapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be fined not more than $500.00.

(b)(1) Prior to instituting an action under subsection (c) of this section, the Attorney General or any person aggrieved by a violation of the provisions of this subchapter shall provide the public body written notice that alleges a specific violation of this subchapter and requests a specific cure of such violation. The public body will not be liable for attorney’s fees and litigation costs under subsection (d) of this section if it cures in fact a violation of this subchapter in accordance with the requirements of this subsection.

(2) Upon receipt of the written notice of alleged violation, the public body shall respond publicly to the alleged violation within 10 calendar days by:

(A) acknowledging the violation of this subchapter and stating an intent to cure the violation within 14 calendar days; or

(B) stating that the public body has determined that no violation has occurred and that no cure is necessary.

(3) Failure of a public body to respond to a written notice of alleged violation within 10 calendar days shall be treated as a denial of the violation for purposes of enforcement of the requirements of this subchapter.

(4) Within 14 calendar days after a public body acknowledges a violation under subdivision (2)(A) of this subsection, the public body shall cure the violation at an open meeting by:

(A) either ratifying, or declaring as void, any action taken at or resulting from:

(i) a meeting that was not noticed in accordance with subsection 312(c) of this title; or

(ii) a meeting that a person or the public was wrongfully excluded from attending; or

(iii) an executive session or portion thereof not authorized under subdivisions 313(a)(1)-(10) of this title; and

(B) adopting specific measures that actually prevent future violations.

(c) Following an acknowledgment or denial of a violation and, if applicable, following expiration of the 14-calendar-day cure period for public bodies acknowledging a violation, the Attorney General or any person aggrieved by a violation of the provisions of this subchapter may bring an action in the Civil Division of the Superior Court in the county in which the violation has taken place for appropriate injunctive relief or for a declaratory judgment. An action may be brought under this section no later than one year after the meeting at which the alleged violation occurred or to which

the alleged violation relates. Except as to cases the court considers of greater importance, proceedings before the Civil Division of the Superior Court, as authorized by this section and appeals therefrom, take precedence on the docket over all cases and shall be assigned for hearing and trial or for argument at the earliest practicable date and expedited in every way.

(d) The court shall assess against a public body found to have violated the requirements of this subchapter reasonable attorney’s fees and other litigation costs reasonably incurred in any case under this subchapter in which the complainant has substantially prevailed, unless the court finds that:

(1)(A) the public body had a reasonable basis in fact and law for its position; and

(B) the public body acted in good faith. In determining whether a public body acted in good faith, the court shall consider, among other factors, whether the public body responded to a notice of an alleged violation of this subchapter in a timely manner under subsection (b) of this section; or

(2) the public body cured the violation in accordance with subsection (b) of this section.

(e) A municipality shall post on its website, if it maintains one:

(1) an explanation of the procedures for submitting notice of an Open Meeting Law violation to the public body or the Attorney General; and

(2) a copy of the text of this section.


MODEL OPEN MEETING LAW COMPLAINT  FORM 

[Insert name of municipality

[Insert date

ATTN: [insert legislative body, town manager/administrator, selectboard chair, or town clerk] [Insert address] 

PHONE: 

EMAIL:  

FACTUAL DESCRIPTION OF THE COMPLAINT: 

Prior to bringing a civil action in the Civil Division of the Superior Court in the county in which  the alleged violation has taken place for appropriate injunctive relief or for a declaratory  judgment, Vermont law requires any person aggrieved by an alleged violation of the Open  Meeting Law to provide the public body with a written notice that alleges a specific violation  and requests a specific cure of such violation.  

• Date and Time Occurred:  

• Name of Public Body: 

• Specific Violation Alleged:  

• Specific Cure Requested:  

Please provide any additional facts that may assist the [insert name of municipality] in its  investigation below: 

______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ 

If you need more space, please attach sheets to this form. Submit this document, and any  supporting documentation, to the address at the top of this form.

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