Yaro v. Board of Appeals of Newburyport was a case before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 1980 concerning open meetings and deliberative processes.
This case established that the Massachusetts Open Meetings Act applied to city zoning commissions.
- The zoning board scheduled an open meeting for July 10, 1979 to discuss a petition to build condos in the city. The meeting went for two hours and the public was present and allowed to express their views. The board closed the meeting and proceeded to a closed meeting in another room to deliberate and vote. During this closed session the board did not take minutes or a roll call. The board signed the written decision on July 19, 1979.
- A number of citizens, including Yaro, filed suit alleging that the board had violated the Massachusetts Open Meetings Act by convening a private session in order to deliberate and vote.
- The board argued it was within its right because Massachusetts statutes 40A, Sections 11 and 15 which dictate the procedures for zoning hearings, which allow the board to write an opinion outside of meetings if it has been arrived at in an open meeting.
- The trial court ruled in favor of the board.
- The citizens appealed the decision.
Ruling of the court
The trial court ruled in favor of the zoning board, determining that the Massachusetts Open Meetings Act was not meant to apply to the zoning board.
The Supreme Court overturned the decision of the trial court and ruled in favor of the citizens.
The Supreme Court determined that the act did in fact apply to the zoning board and that the laws were not inconsistent. Sections 11 and 15 of statute 40A require an open meeting and permit the written results of the meeting to be produced outside of the meeting. However, both are consistent with the open meetings act in that they require an open meeting for both the hearing, and the deliberation and decision-making. The court thus ruled that the executive session was called without justification and ruled in favor of the citizens and remanded the decision to superior court to determine appropriate punishment.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Ruling of the Court