Friday, April 02, 2010

Martha Coakley announces new Open Meeting Post

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March 31, 2009 Emily LaGrassa

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New Division will Focus on Education and Outreach as AG’s Office

Assumes Responsibility for Open Meeting Law Enforcement
BOSTON – Attorney General Martha Coakley has named Robert Nasdor as the Director of her office’s newly-created Division of Open Government. In this role, Nasdor will oversee the Attorney General’s Office’s work to enforce and provide education and training on the state’s Open Meeting Law. On July 1, 2010, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) will assume responsibility for enforcement of the Open Meeting Law (OML) from the state’s District Attorneys, who previously enforced the law as it pertains to municipal bodies.
“The recent changes to the Open Meeting law provide for greater transparency and clarity—both of which are hallmarks of good government,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley. “Our office’s approach to enforcement of the Open Meeting Law will focus on education and training, and it is our hope that if all local government officials understand the law, we will prevent violations. Bob is a seasoned attorney whose career has focused on public interest advocacy and he shares my commitment to open government. I am confident that he will bring top-notch leadership to this new division and will be a great resource for municipal officials.”
Nasdor, a Sudbury resident, is a graduate of Rutgers University School of Law. He previously served as the Legal Director at the National Center on Homelessness & Poverty in Washington, DC, where he directed the law and policy agenda for this national homeless legal advocacy organization. From 1997 through 2005, Nasdor served as the Executive Director of the Legal Assistance Corporation of Central Massachusetts, directing a 20-attorney civil legal services program serving 3,500 low-income clients annually.
Under Ethics Reform legislation enacted in 2009 the AGO will assume responsibility for all enforcement of the OML. Previously, the AGO was responsible for enforcement of the OML as it pertains to state boards and committees, while the state’s 11 District Attorney’s were responsible for enforcement of OML as it applied to municipal and county boards and committees. In order to allow for more consistent enforcement and to provide for more training

and education of municipal and county officials, all enforcement was transferred to the AGO, effective July 1, 2010.

Recognizing that most OML violations are the result of a lack of awareness or understanding of the law, the Attorney General’s new Division of Open Government will focus on providing training and educational resources to public officials who are subject to the OML. The Division of Open Government will provide training through two key means:

1. Online: The AGO will develop a comprehensive website that will provide updated OML guidelines, links to the OML and the AGO’s regulations, links to the advisory opinions and hearing decisions that we will be issuing, and other educational materials and resources.
2. In-person: The new division will also conduct in-person, regional trainings. In addition, the AGO will also continue to accept requests to speak from associations representing municipal officials, city managers, city solicitors/town counsel and city/town clerks, and other officials subject to the OML, as well as the news media.

The new division’s goal is to be a recognizable and readily accessible resource for officials, the news media, and the public.

Because the AGO has the authority to issue binding interpretations of the OML—something that the District Attorneys did not have—the AGO will be able to help officials avoid violating the law by providing guidance before action is taken. The AGO will provide both formal and informal guidance to municipalities and other officials. For example:

* Officials and other interested parties can ask for a written opinion from the Division of Open Government, which will apply the OML to a specific set of facts.
* The Division of Open Government will be able to respond to questions and concerns posed by local officials over the phone.

In addition, the AGO plans to issue procedural and substantive regulations that will help to fill in any gaps in the OML and respond to issues that arise.

1 comment:

the zak said...

Will a website be made available for all to make enquiries about their cities' and towns' sunshine open public meetings?...