May 22, 1997

In re: Concerned Citizens of Lyon County/Lyon County Board of Education

Open Meetings Decision

This matter comes to the Attorney General as an appeal by a group called the Concerned Citizens of Lyon County in connection with its complaint against the Lyon County Board of Education.

In a letter to the school board chairman, dated April 16, 1997, but apparently not received by him until April 23, 1997, the concerned citizens group referred to a meeting of the school board held on January 24, 1997. The concerned citizens said that because of a large turnout the meeting was moved from the small school board office to a school library. It was alleged that when the school board moved the meeting back to the school board office before it was over, knowing that facility was too small to permit public observation of the proceedings, the Open Meetings Act was violated.

Legal counsel for the school board responded to the concerned citizens group in a letter dated April 24, 1997, and maintained that the meeting in question was "legal in all respects." It was admitted that the school board returned to its main office to discuss the feasibility of an executive session. Legal counsel said no motion was made relative to going into an executive session but the school board did vote to extend a particular person's contract at that time.

The appeal of the concerned citizens was received by this office on May 8, 1997. It was alleged that the school board violated the Open Meetings Law when the meeting, which had been moved from the school board office to a school library to accommodate a larger than expected turnout, was moved back to the school board office where additional business was transacted. A majority of those in attendance in the school library could not observe proceedings in the school board office according to the citizens group.

In a response received May 16, 1997, legal counsel for the school board said that the meeting, which began at the school board office, was moved to a school library in order that public comments could be made relative to the school superintendent's contract. He said that 53 persons gathered in the school library, slightly fewer than the number of persons in the original gathering.

At the conclusion of the public comments the board's legal counsel said an executive session was contemplated and it was counsel's opinion that any vote on any matter had to be made at the place where the meeting began which was the school board's office. He said about 30 citizens returned to that location.

KRS 61.820 provides in part that all meetings of all public agencies of this state shall be held at specified times and places which are convenient to the public.

KRS 61.840 states in part that no condition other than those necessary for the maintenance of order shall apply to the attendance of the public at any meeting of any public agency. That same statute also includes a sentence providing that all public agencies shall provide meeting room conditions which allow effective public observation of the public meeting.

The parties to this appeal do not agree as to why the meeting was moved from the school board office room to the school library. They also do not agree on how many people showed up at the original meeting site, how many went to the school library, and how many returned to the school board office room with the school board members. In view of the ten day period relative to the issuance of decisions, this office does not have the time nor do we have the information or resources to determine the answer to those questions.

However, no matter what the precise reason for moving the meeting or the number of citizens in attendance at either facility, we think it can be stated that the meeting was moved for the convenience, safety, or comfort of the public. Moving a meeting for any of these reasons is proper, something for which the school board deserves credit, and is in furtherance of the board's obligations to hold a meeting in a place convenient to the public and which affords effective public observation of the proceedings.

Legal counsel for the school board maintains that the meeting was moved back to the school board meeting room because a prior decision of this office required that any vote or decision by the public agency must be made at the place where the meeting began. We do not believe that the decision in that appeal dictated the course of action followed by the school board in this situation.

In 95-OMD-92 this office decided that three members of a board of education violated the Open Meetings Act when the notice, motion, and vote relative to the closed session were given, made, and taken at a place which did not constitute the forum for the open and public meeting. The meeting site had not been changed in that situation. Three members of the board, rather than returning to the meeting site, attempted to take action while they were in a place in the building other than the designated meeting site.

This appeal involves a situation where, for whatever the precise reason, the meeting was moved to another site. Once the meeting reconvened in the school library that facility became the meeting site. All proceedings and actions relative to the meeting should then have taken place at that location. Since the school library facility apparently was sufficient to accommodate those in attendance and to enable the school board to conduct the remainder of the meeting, there was no reason, legal or otherwise, to switch the meeting back to the original site. It would be inconvenient to the public to require them to move from an apparently satisfactory meeting location to another site in absence of any compelling reason to do so.

It is the decision of the Attorney General that when the school board moved the meeting site from the school board office to the school library the latter location became the designated meeting site from which all remaining proceedings and actions relative to the meeting should have been conducted. In absence of any compelling reason to do so, the school board was not justified in moving the meeting to yet another location as such an action is inconvenient to the public.

A party aggrieved by this decision may challenge it by filing an appeal with 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 proceeding under the Open Meetings Act.

A. B. Chandler III

Attorney General

Thomas R. Emerson

Assistant Attorney General


Copies of this decision

have been distributed to:

Concerned Citizens of Lyon County

c/o Pat Bassett

P.O. Box 893

Eddyville KY 42038

G. L. Ovey

Ovey and Johnson, P.S.C.

P.O. Box 679

Eddyville KY 42038