Provide notice of public meetings the right way

Editor's note: The SC Supreme Court has since issued decisions pertaining to open meetings.

Properly noticing council meetings is not only the right thing to do; it required by state law.

Municipal clerks must give notice of meetings to members of council and the public. In fact, state law requires regularly scheduled meetings be noticed twice.

The first notice is the annual public meeting notice published before the start of the calendar year. The annual notice lists regularly scheduled meeting dates, times and locations.

The second notice is a written notice of each meeting or rescheduled meeting. It includes, but need not be limited to, posting a copy of the meeting agenda, if there is one, at least 24 hours before the meeting at the town/city hall or at the building where the meeting is to be held and notifying the press and anyone having requested individual notice.

In June 2014, the SC Supreme Court ruled an agenda is not required for a regularly scheduled meeting. Despite this ruling, the Municipal Association recommends cities continue to follow the best practice of having an agenda in order to conduct the public's business in an efficient and effective manner. An agenda must be posted at least 24 hours before the meeting.

According to state law, the written meeting notice requirement applies to all public meetings of council with the exception of an emergency meeting.

A public meeting is defined as the convening of a quorum of any public body where business is discussed or conducted, regardless of whether votes will be taken. Calling a meeting a retreat or work session does not relieve the council of the mandatory public notice requirement as long as a quorum of council will be present.

When in doubt if a public notice is required, the prudent course of action is to provide public notice.