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June 25, 2024

Shelby County – Open Meetings Act 101 – Who Can Call A Meeting?

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On September 10, 2023

Shelby Co. (ECWd) –

A recently posted meeting for the Shelby County Farm Committee has generated more misinformation and created more division than we have ever witnessed from adults because it was called by a member of the committee rather than the Chairman.  As if that is not truly an end-of-the-world event, one person claims, What should be concerning is the outside Influence that has infiltrated our county. The story was up on a site before many people knew. This happens time and time again”.

How providing public notice about a meeting is twisted into “infiltrated our county” is yet another divisive post that ignores the fact the original meeting notice was on the county website and the County Clerk sent it to us, just as she did to multiple other news sources who we have yet to see any public notice posted from them. If notifying the public about a meeting of interest to the community is what should concern people, then all perspective has been lost.  We note the changed agenda, meeting date, and location are not posted on the county website, but we once again posted the meeting informationfor’ the public to be informed about the changes from the original meeting notice.

Some would have you believe that only the chairman of a public body can call a meeting. Such a position is not only incorrect but a position that should give great pause.  Do we live in a society where a meeting can only be called if the chairman wants it?  What if the chairman is opposed to what the majority of the board or the public wants?  Should such power be vested in one person? Should such a policy be adopted?  Would such a policy not strip other elected officials on the board from taking steps to represent their constituents? Would such a policy violate current law?

The Open Meetings Act does not outline who can or can not call a meeting.  It simply requires any meeting that is going to take place to have the proper 48-hour notice and agenda posted as outlined in the law.

The Counties Code provides a specific provision for members of the board to call a special meeting of the full board.  That provision does not require the chairman to call it. So to the prolific local keyboard warrior constantly asking questions implying wrongdoing, take it up with the legislature and simple logic because it’s not only legal but spelled out how board members can do it, all without the chairman.

Any policy adopted permitting only the chairman can call a meeting of the full board would violate current law.  As far as committees, we know of no law, policy, or bylaws requiring only the chairman being able to call a meeting and considering Roberts Rules of Order provides a mechanism for a member of a body to call a meeting, we suggest people do some more research before alleging the scheduled meeting is an illegal meeting because the chairman did not call it.

We have seen the “calling of meeting wars” several times over the years.  We have seen 2 meetings called by 2 separate members of a public body and 2 separate agendas all for the same date, time, and location. Provided a quorum of the public body is present, the meeting can and did take place and both agendas were used.

A similar matter is placing things on an agenda.  Shelby County can hold its head high because it allows its members to place things on the agenda.  Some counties continue to restrict agenda items to a chairman’s approval claiming the chairman controls the agenda.  Nothing is further from the truth than such a belief.  When a public body defaults to chairman controls what can go on an agenda or the calling of a meeting the other elected officials are stripped of their rights to bring matters before the board for a vote.

There are plenty of times when a meeting is called by people other than the chairman and it does not destroy the county or community nor create social media hysteria filled with all kinds of assumptions as to what can or cannot take place in this matter.  However, in this case, because of the item on the agenda: discussion and vote on a resolution to sell the farm, it appears the slinging of accusations and claims about what can or cannot be done has reached a fever pitch on the level of tar and feathers.

As it stands, there is a legally posted agenda for a meeting to be held, and provided a quorum of the public body shows up the meeting can take place.

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