Thu, 13 Dec 2012 13:58:24 ESTCall the Office of the Attorney General at (207) 626-8577 or get more information online at: Your">http://www.maine.gov/foaa/">Your Right to Know: Maine's Freedom of Access Act
Thu, 13 Dec 2012 13:55:14 ESTThe Legislature created a public access ombudsman position to review complaints about compliance with the FOAA and attempt to mediate their resolution, as well as answer calls from the public, media, public agencies and officials about the requirements of the law. The ombudsman is also responsible for providing educational materials about the law and preparing advisory opinions. The ombudsman works closely with the Right to Know Advisory Committee in monitoring new developments and considering improvements to the law.
Wed, 17 Oct 2012 13:20:05 EDTYes. Any legally required record or minutes of a public proceeding must be made promptly and shall be open to public inspection. In addition, every agency is required to make a written record of any decision that involves conditional approval or denial of any application, license, certificate or other type of permit and to make those decisions publicly available, 1">http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/1/title1sec403.html">1 M.R.S.A. § §403, 407;">http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/1/title1sec407.html">407; 5">http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/5/title5sec9059.html">5 M.R.S.A. § 9059 (3).
Wed, 17 Oct 2012 13:20:18 EDTThere is no requirement under the Freedom of Access Act that a public body or agency keep running minutes during all public proceedings. The Act does require, however, that public bodies and agencies keep a written record of every decision that involves the conditional approval or denial of an application, license, certificate or permit, and every decision that involves the dismissal or refusal to renew the contract of any public official, employee or appointee. 1">http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/1/title1sec407.html">1 M.R.S.A. § 407 (1) & (2).
Wed, 17 Oct 2012 13:18:40 EDTThe Freedom of Access Act does not require that an opportunity for public participation be provided at open meetings, although many public bodies or agencies choose to permit public participation. In those instances, the public body or agency can adopt reasonable rules to ensure meetings are conducted in a fair and orderly manner. For example, the body or agency can set a rule that requires the same amount of time be afforded to each person that wants to speak.
Wed, 17 Oct 2012 13:15:26 EDTYes. The Freedom of Access Act allows individuals to make written, taped or filmed records of a public proceeding, or to broadcast the proceedings live, provided the action does not interfere with the orderly conduct of the proceedings. The body or agency holding the proceeding can make reasonable rules or regulations to govern these activities so long as the rules or regulations do not defeat the purpose of the Act. 1">http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/1/title1sec404.html">1 M.R.S.A. § 404.
Wed, 17 Oct 2012 13:15:48 EDTThere is no legal prohibition against email communication between members of a public body outside of a public proceeding. However, email communication among a quorum of the members of a body used as a substitute for deliberations or decisions which should properly take place at a public meeting may likely be considered a "meeting" in violation of the statutory requirements for open meetings and public notice. "Public proceedings" are defined in part as "the transactions of any functions affecting any or all citizens of the State " 1">http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/1/title1sec402.html">1 MRSA § 402. The underlying purpose of the Freedom of Access law is that public proceedings be conducted openly and that deliberations and actions be taken openly; clandestine meetings should not be used to defeat the purpose of the law. 1">http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/1/title1sec401.html">1 MRSA § 401. Public proceedings must be conducted in public and any person must be permitted to attend and observe the body's proceeding although executive sessions are permitted under certain circumstances. 1">http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/1/title1sec403.html">1 MRSA § 403. In addition, public notice must be given for a public proceeding if the proceeding is a meeting of a body or agency consisting of 3 or more persons. 1">http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/1/title1sec406.html">1 MRSA § 406.
Wed, 17 Oct 2012 13:19:24 EDTAfter completing the training, elected officials are required to make a written or electronic record attesting that the training has been completed. The record, which will be available to the public, must be kept by the elected official or filed with the public entity to which the official was elected. A sample">http://mainegov-images.informe.org/foaa/Training/CertificationofCompletion.pdf">sample training completion form is available (This file requires the free Adobe">http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html">Adobe Reader).
Wed, 17 Oct 2012 13:18:43 EDTNo. Training courses do not need the approval of the Right to Know Advisory Committee, or any other State agency.
Wed, 17 Oct 2012 13:21:11 EDTUpon learning of any such action, any person may appeal to any Superior Court in the State. If the court determines the body or agency acted illegally, the action that was taken by the body or agency will be declared to be null and void and the officials responsible will be subject to the penalties provided in the Act. 1">http://janus.state.me.us/legis/statutes/1/title1sec409.html">1 M.R.S.A. § 409 (2). Superior Courts Directory: http://www.courts.state.me.us/maine_courts/superior/directory.shtml
Wed, 17 Oct 2012 13:16:00 EDTGenerally, no. The content of deliberations during executive sessions is restricted to the matters listed in the Freedom of Access Act, such as: discussions regarding the suspension or expulsion of a student; certain employment actions; the acquisition, use or disposition of public property; consultations between a body and its attorney concerning its legal rights and responsibilities or pending litigation; and discussion of documents that are confidential by statute. In addition, any body or agency subject to the Freedom of Access Act is prohibited from giving final approval to any ordinances, orders, rules, resolutions, regulations, contracts, appointments or other official action in an executive session. 1">http://janus.state.me.us/legis/statutes/1/title1sec405.html">1 M.R.S.A. § 405 (2) & (6).
Wed, 17 Oct 2012 13:15:55 EDTYes. Public bodies or agencies are permitted, subject to certain procedural conditions, to hold closed "executive sessions" on specified subjects after a public recorded vote of 3/5 of the members present and voting. 1">http://janus.state.me.us/legis/statutes/1/title1sec405.html">1 M.R.S.A. § 405 (1)-(5).
Wed, 17 Oct 2012 13:14:45 EDTYes. Public notice of an emergency meeting must be provided to local representatives of the media, whenever practicable. The notice must include the time and location of the meeting and be provided by the same (or faster) means used to notify the members of the public body or agency conducting the public proceeding. 1">http://janus.state.me.us/legis/statutes/1/title1sec406.html">1 MRSA § 406. The requirements that the meeting be open to the public, that any person be permitted to attend and that records or minutes of the meeting be made and open for public inspection still apply. 1">http://janus.state.me.us/legis/statutes/1/title1sec403.html">1 MRSA § 403.
Wed, 17 Oct 2012 13:21:36 EDTPublic notice must be given in ample time to allow public attendance and must be disseminated in a manner reasonably calculated to notify the general public in the jurisdiction served by the body or agency. 1">http://janus.state.me.us/legis/statutes/1/title1sec406.html">1 M.R.S.A. § 406.
Wed, 17 Oct 2012 13:22:05 EDTPublic notice is required of all public proceedings if the proceedings are a meeting of a body or agency consisting of 3 or more persons. 1">http://janus.state.me.us/legis/statutes/1/title1sec406.html">1 MRSA § 406.