TO BE PUBLISHED
July 7, 1995
IN RE: Mary Jo Kustes/Spencer County Elementary School
OPEN MEETINGS DECISION
This matter comes to the Attorney General as an appeal by Mary Jo Kustes and another member of the Spencer County Community Committee for Education as a result of the written response they received from Dale Kleinjan, Chairperson, Spencer County Elementary SBDM Council. The appeal, received by the Attorney General on June 14, 1995, maintains that the public agency interfered with the rights of citizens to speak during public meetings in violation of the Open Meetings Act and the public agency's own bylaws.
In a series of letters to Mr. Kleinjan, none of which are dated, Ms. Kustes and her organization raised several complaints relative to a meeting held on May 31, 1995. Included among those complaints was one pertaining to the public agency's refusal to permit persons to address the agency during the course of a public meeting.
Mr. Kleinjan, in a letter to Ms. Kustes' organization, dated June 9, 1995, advised in part that the agenda did not include, nor was it required to include, a designated time for the public to address the council. He said that special meetings do not require such a procedure as part of the agenda.
The Attorney General has a limited function under the Open Meetings Act which is expressed in KRS 61.846(2). The Attorney General is required to review the complaint and denial and issue a written decision which states whether the public agency violated the Open Meetings Act. Thus, when an appeal is presented to this office under the Open Meetings Act we cannot decide whether other statutes and various local procedures and regulations have been violated. We can only decide if there has been a violation of the provisions contained in KRS 61.805 to KRS 61.850.
We are aware of the bylaws of the Spencer County SBDM Council relative to individuals addressing the council during the course of public meetings. Whether those rules were followed is not a matter that can be addressed in an appeal under the Open Meetings Act.
In OAG 78-522, copy enclosed, at page two, this office said in part:
The state legislature has not dictated to the various classes of cities procedural rules relating to the conduct of meetings, and as a consequence, each legislative body must adopt its own rules of procedure. Many cities adopt those rules promulgated in Robert's Rules of Order or some other manual of legislative procedure such as Mason's for the orderly conduct of their meetings.
In 94-ORD-45, copy enclosed, it was noted that members of the public have a right to attend all meetings of a public agency. KRS 61.840 states in part that no condition other than those required for the maintenance of order shall apply to the attendance of any member of the public at any meeting of a public agency. No person can be required to identify himself or herself in order to attend any such meeting. The statute further requires that public agencies provide meeting room conditions which allow effective public observation of public meetings. News media coverage of public meetings must be permitted.
While members of the public have the statutory right to attend all public meetings and to observe with their eyes and ears what transpires at those meetings, the Open Meetings Act does not grant those persons the right to participate in the meeting and address during the meeting the members of the public agency.
As noted earlier it is up to each public agency to adopt procedural rules relative to conducting their meetings and it is hoped that such rules will include procedures permitting members of the public to address the public agency.
It is the decision of the Attorney General that the provisions of the Open Meetings Act do not guarantee a person attending a public meeting the right to address the public agency during the course of the meeting. Whether the public agency followed its own rules relative to public participation at a public meeting is not a matter which can be resolved by the Attorney General during the course of an appeal under the Open Meetings Act.
Mary Jo Kustes and the Spencer County Community Committee for Education may challenge this decision by initiating action in the appropriate circuit court within thirty days from the date of this decision. See KRS 61.846(4)(a) and KRS 61.848. Pursuant to KRS 61.846(5) the Attorney General must be notified of any action filed in the circuit court, but he shall not be named as a party in that action or in any subsequent proceedings under the Open Meetings Act.
Thomas R. Emerson
Assistant Attorney General
Copies of this decision
have been mailed to:
Mary Jo Kustes
2068 Delta Road
Taylorsville, KY 40071
Spencer County Elementary School
Box 549 - Maple Avenue
Taylorsville, KY 40071