Massachusetts Open Meetings Act
The Massachusetts Open Meetings Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted. Chapter 30A, statutes 11A-11C and Chapter 34, statute 9 and chapter 29, statute 23A-D of the Massachusetts General Laws define the law.
Relevant legal cases
- See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA
Here is a list of lawsuits pertaining to open meetings in Massachusetts. For more information go the page or go to Massachusetts sunshine lawsuits.
(The cases are listed alphabetically. To order them by year please click the icon to the right of the Year heading)
|Connelly v. School Committee of Hanover||1991|
|District Attorney for the Plymouth District v. Board of Selectmen of Middleborough||1985|
|Gerstein v. Superintendent Search Screening Committee||1989|
|Ghiglione v. School Committee of Southbridge||1978|
|Pearson v. Board of Health of Chicopee||1988|
|Yaro v. Board of Appeals of Newburyport||1980|
Proposed open meetings legislation
We do not currently have any legislation for Massachusetts in 2010.
Which government meetings are open to the public?
The law states that a meeting is any gathering of a quorum of members of a public body for the purposes of deliberating and deciding on public matters.
Notable exemptions to this definition include:
- On site inspections of facilities
- Chance or social meetings at which no final decisions are made
What government bodies are subject to the laws?
The act defines government body as all commissions or boards created by either the legislature or the executive and all the boards and committees that have been created by the general court to serve a public purpose. The definition also includes committees and agencies of all political subdivisions.
Notable exemptions to the definition of public body include:
- Town meetings
The Massachusetts Open Meetings Act does not include the legislature in its definition of public body found at Massachusetts General Laws 30a.11a.
The act requires all public bodies to post notice 48 hours in advance of any meeting.
The act requires that governmental bodies keep minutes of all meetings including the time and date, the members in attendance, any discussions had and any votes taken. Voting cannot be done in secret and must be recorded on the minutes. Anyone has the right to record an open government meeting.
|Common executive session exemptions|
|Personal privacy (including employees)|
|Purchase or sale of property|
|Exempt under other laws|
The act allows for public bodies to convene executive sessions with a majority vote within an open meeting. Executive sessions may be held for the following purposes:
- To discuss the reputation, character, physical condition or mental health of an individual, when not considering professional competencies. The board must contact this person prior to the meeting, and that person may request an open meeting.
- To hear complaints and consider discipline of public employees, assuming that the public employees have not waived their right to a closed session by requesting an open meeting.
- collective bargaining strategy
- security information
- allegations of criminal misconduct or to file complaints
- when considering purchasing or selling real estate
Local bodies have the additional exemptions:
- to consider applicants
- to meet or confer with a mediator
- to discuss trade secrets
Three or more citizens, the attorney general, or the district attorney may file suit in an alleged violation of the open meetings act. If a complaint is filed within 21 days, a judge may void any action taken in an illegal meeting. Courts may also release records and issue injunctions preventing future violations of the law.
State of Massachusetts
|State executive officers||
Governor | Lieutenant Governor | Attorney General | Secretary of State | Treasurer | State Auditor | Commissioner of Education | Commissioner of Insurance | Commissioner of Agriculture | Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs | Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development | Chair of Public Utilities |