|Legal Opinion: |
Text of Document:
July 24, 1992
You have asked about the Tennessee Open Meetings Law and the kind of notification necessary to advertise meetings of the Solid Waste Planning Board since they will be meeting in several locations.
The first issue is whether this Planning Board is, in fact, subject to the Open Meetings Act found in Tennessee Code Annotated, § 8-44-101 et seq. The law requires that all meetings of any "governing body" be open to the public. Tennessee Code Annotated, § 8-44-102 defines a governing body to be:
...the members of any public body which consists of two or more members, with the authority to make decisions for or recommendations to a public body on policy or administration.
While the Planning Board will not be making decisions until it transitions to a Solid Waste Authority, it clearly will be making recommendations to the county commissions regarding their solid waste disposal policies. Also, because the Planning Board's
...origin and authority may be traced to State...[and] county legislative action and ...[the] members have authority to make decisions or recommendations on policy ...affecting the conduct of the business of the people in the governmental sector...Dorrier v. Dark, 537 S.W. 2d 888 (Tenn. 1976),
the open meetings act will almost certainly be applicable to their meetings.
Regarding the proper notice for meetings subject to the Open Meetings Law the statute provides:
Any such governmental body which holds a meeting not previously scheduled by statute, ordinance, or resolution, or for which notice is not already provided by law, shall give adequate public notice of such meeting. Tennessee Code Annotated, § 8-44-103(b).
The Tennessee Supreme Court has interpreted this language to mean notice that "fairly informs" the public of the meeting. Memphis Publishing Company v. City of Memphis, 513 S.W. 2d 511 (Tenn. 1974). The Planning Boards meetings will likely be held on a regular basis (weekly, bi-weekly or monthly) but will rotate between the counties that are represented by the Planning Board. I think you will have satisfied this requirement if you publish a schedule of regular meetings and specially notice any deviation from this schedule or specially called meeting.
The notice must be published in a newspaper of general circulation. This requires a newspaper that is published at least more frequently than monthly and that contains news of general interest to the public. A monthly journal limited to business-related news, in the opinion of the Attorney General, does not satisfy this requirement. OAG U90-118, August 15, 1990. Since this Planning Board is composed of representatives of several counties, you must make sure the notice is provided in newspapers that circulate in these counties.
If you need more information please call. Thanks for asking MTAS to help.