Written on: March 27th, 2006 in 10002(a) Agenda
Complainant alleged that the Newark City Council violated FOIA’s open meeting requirements by discussing public business at a meeting without providing the public with sufficient notice on the agenda. HELD: The notice requirements of FOIA do not preclude members of the public or the public body from raising a matter of public business outside the agenda. However, when a substantial matter not specifically noticed for public discussion comes up at a public meeting, there must be a compelling reason why the issue cannot wait for discussion until a later meeting to allow for proper notice under FOIA. It is not sufficient to state that no “formal action” was taken because action by a public body includes fact gathering, deliberations and discussions, all of which influence the public body’s final decision. In this case, the minutes of the meeting indicated that the Council engaged in a substantial discussion of a matter not on the meeting Agenda. Therefore, the discussion violated FOIA’s notice requirements. However, no remediation was necessary because the agenda for the very next Council meeting indicated that the discussion would continue at the next meeting, and that agenda and notice complied with FOIA.