Q: The meeting notice includes a discussion of “miscellaneous” items. Does that notice comply with the Open Meetings Law?
A: The statutory standard for noticing a meeting requires that the subject matter be set forth “in such a form as is reasonably likely to apprise members of the public and the news media thereof.” Sec. 19.84(2), Stats. The Attorney General strongly discourages generic listings, such as “miscellaneous business,” and advises that if an unnoticed subject were to arise under such a listing, the governmental body should refrain from information gathering or action “depriv[ing] the public of information about the conduct of governmental business.” Wisconsin Department of Justice, Wisconsin Open Meetings Law: A Compliance Guide 9 (2005) (citing I-5-93, April 26, 1993). General subject matter listings, like “miscellaneous business,” however, should be distinguished from an agenda item designed to allow citizens to bring forth issues at a meeting. Sections 19.83(2) and 19.84(2), Stats., allow governmental bodies to hear and discuss matters raised in a general comment period, but prohibit the body from acting on those matters. The Attorney General also advises that extensive discussion of issues raised during a comment period be deferred until specific notice can be given for a future meeting. Wisconsin Department of Justice, Wisconsin Open Meetings Law: A Compliance Guide 11 (2003).
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