Transparency Trumps Technology: Reconciling Open Meeting Laws with Modern Technology

Note by Cassandra B. Roeder in Wm. & Mary L. Rev: “As technological advances revolutionize communication patterns in the private and public sectors, government actors must consider their reactions carefully. Public representatives may take advantage of modern technology to improve communications with constituents and to operate more efficiently. However, this progress must be made with an eye to complying with certain statutory restrictions placed on public bodies…
This Note will argue that, in order to comply with the spirit and the letter of open meeting laws, public bodies should limit use of modern technology to: (1) providing information and soliciting public feedback through noninteractive websites, and (2) enabling remote participation of public body members at meetings. This Note will then contend that public bodies should not utilize interactive online forums or group e-mails. Although these technologies may offer certain obvious benefits, this Note argues that: (1) they do not comply with current open meeting law requirements, and (2) legislatures should not alter open meeting laws to allow for their use.8 It concludes that although more permissive statutes might lead to an increase in civic participation and government efficiency, these potential gains must be sacrificed in order to preserve transparency, the primary purpose of open meeting laws…”