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Letter: Variance Board editorial inaccurate

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The Variance Board editorial in the Jan. 29 Enterprise was inaccurate.

The Minnesota Open Meeting Law is not clear and there have been a number of Minnesota Court cases determining what is an open meeting and whether the law applies to certain committees, departments or commissions.

The Minnesota Supreme Court has not ruled the open meeting law applies to all gatherings of members of a public body regardless of whether or not action is taken or contemplated as the editorial implies. For instance, if the members of the Board of Adjustment gather together in one place this weekend to watch the Super Bowl this would not be a violation of the open meeting law. See Moberg V. Independent School District 336 N.W. 2d 510. However if they discuss, receive or decide issues coming before them while watching the Super Bowl they would violate the open meeting law. Social gatherings, even though a quorum is present, are not covered by the law. See St. Cloud Newspapers v. District 742 Community Schools 332 N.W. 2d 1.

County and city attorneys as well as private attorneys that represent governing bodies are frequently asked the question of what is an open meeting and what is not. For instance I have been asked if it is a violation of the open meeting law if the Hubbard County Board members have lunch together on their meeting day. It is not and I have counseled the board they are not to discuss county business during lunch. The same holds true for the Board of Adjustment. If the members go to lunch together they would not be violating the open meeting law. Likewise when the Board of Adjustment members get in a van together to make a site inspection, the trip there does not violate the open meeting law so long as they do not discuss issues concerning the site during the ride. The Zoning Administrator, Eric Buitenwerf, has been trained to advise the Board members to not discuss the site during the ride. Once at the site the open meeting law would apply.

Don Dearstyne

Hubbard County Attorney

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