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Missouri Sunshine Law for open meetings
The Missouri Sunshine Law for open meetings legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted. Chapter 610 of the Missouri Revised Statutes define the law.
Relevant legal cases
- See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA
Here is a list of open meetings lawsuits in Missouri. For more information go the page or go to Missouri sunshine lawsuits.
(The cases are listed alphabetically. To order them by year please click the icon to the right of the Year heading)
|Remington v. City of Boonville||1985|
Proposed open meetings legislation
We do not currently have any legislation for Missouri in 2010.
Statement of purpose
The statement of purpose of the Open Meetings Act states,
"1. It is the public policy of this state that meetings, records, votes, actions, and deliberations of public governmental bodies be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law. Sections 610.010 to 610.200 shall be liberally construed and their exceptions strictly construed to promote this public policy.
2. Except as otherwise provided by law, all public meetings of public governmental bodies shall be open to the public as set forth in Section 610.020, all public records of public governmental bodies shall be open to the public for inspection and copying as set forth in sections 610.023 to 610.026, and all public votes of public governmental bodies shall be recorded as set forth in section 610.015."
Which government meetings are open to the public?
The law states that all gatherings of members of a public body where public business is discussed or decided upon are considered meetings and are required to be open to the public.
Notable exceptions to this include:
- Social gatherings where there was no intention of avoiding the requirements of the open meetings laws
What government bodies are subject to the laws?
The act defines government body as all agencies and departments created by the constitution, executive order or state statute or by any political subdivision, including judicial entities when acting in an administrative capacity. The act explicitly includes:
- University Boards
- advisory boards appointed by the governor
- Sewer and water districts
- any bodies headed by three or more elected or appointed officials with rule-making or quasi-judicial powers
- Any committee, whether advisory or no, appointed by public agencies, especially those who dispense public funds. This includes committees and groups appointed by universities for fund-raising and spending.
- quasi-public governmental bodies, including private non-profits, which either exist for the sole purpose of entering into contracts with the state or perform a public function
- Bi-state development agencies
The legislature falls under the definition of public body found at Revised Statutes of Missouri 610.010 and is subject to the Missouri Sunshine Law for open meetings.
The act requires all public bodies to provide at least 24 hours notice, excluding weekends and holidays, for all meetings. Notice must be posted in the public agencies office and be sent to any news agencies who have requested notice. Notice requirements apply to executive sessions as well as regular meetings.
Subcommittees of public bodies may hold meetings without notice during or immediately after a meeting of their parent committee.
Voting at all meetings must occur as a roll call vote and the minutes record the name of each official and his vote. The minutes of all meetings must be maintained in a journal and be accessible to the public. Public bodies are required to permit any individual the opportunity to records public meetings using either audio or video recording equipment, so long as it does not interfere with the meeting.
|Common executive session exemptions|
|Personal privacy (including employees)|
|Purchase or sale of property|
|Exempt under other laws|
Executive sessions require a majority vote of the members of a public body. Executive sessions can be called for the following reasons:
- To discuss potential or pending litigation including all material that would fall under the attorney-client privilege, until the litigation is concluded
- purchase or sale of property until the contract is completed
- hiring firing or discipline of a public employee
- Any decisions arrived at under this exception must be posted within 72 hours with a complete roll call vote
- State militia or national guard may convene in closed session at any time
- Nonjudicial mental or physical health hearings
- hearings related to students
- discussion of testing and examination materials
- welfare cases
- labor negotiations
- software information, specifically access codes
- preliminary discussions of bid specifications
- sealed bids, until opened
- applicant information and the names of donors
- discussing records protected by the Missouri Sunshine Law
- discussion of scientific or technological information in order to protect trade secrets
- discussion of criminal and abuse hot-lines
- communication with the public agencies auditor
- when discussing terrorist or emergency response protocols
- when discussing security information
- when discussing computer and electronic security information
- to protect information about electronic transactions such as security codes, credit card numbers, etc.
Any wronged individual, the attorney general, or the local district attorney may files suit if they believe a violation of the Sunshine Law has occurred. If the court finds the public body has violated the law, the court can impose fines of up to $1000 and award attorney fees to the plaintiff. The court may also void actions taken by public bodies during illegal meetings if they feel the public interest weighs in favor of disclosure as opposed to maintaining the actions. Public agencies may provide legal defense for officials accused of violating this law.
Audit finds 59 sunshine law compliance problems
An audit release in May of 2010 found that there had been 59 compliance problems of the Missouri Sunshine Law between 2008 and 2009. Over 45 governmental bodies were reported having issues with meeting minutes and agendas; 30 reported problems with minutes for closed meetings; and 18 failed to provide justification for a closed meeting.
State of Missouri
Jefferson City (capital)
|State executive officers||
Governor | Lieutenant Governor | Attorney General | Secretary of State | Treasurer | State Auditor | Commissioner of Education | Director of Insurance | Director of Agriculture | Director of Natural Resources | Director of Labor & Industrial Relations | Chairman of Public Service Commission |