H. Are there sanctions for noncompliance?
A court may void action taken as the result of a meeting held in violation of the OMA only if it finds that, considering all circumstances, the public interest in compliance with the OMA outweighs the harm that would be caused to the public interest and to the public entity by voiding the action. In making this determination, the court must consider at least the nine factors specified by the legislature in AS 44.62.310(f), as well as any others the court may find relevant. A lawsuit to void an action taken in violation of the Open Meetings Act in connection with a special or emergency meeting, as with any other OMA violation, must be filed in superior court within 180 days after the date of the action being challenged. The governmental body that violates or is alleged to have violated the OMA can cure the violation, before or after court action, by holding another meeting in compliance with notice and other requirements of the OMA and conducting a substantial and public reconsideration of the matter as considered at the original meeting. Violations of the OMA can constitute legally sufficient grounds for recalling a public official.
For any violation of the OML, the court may (1) award attorneys’ fees and costs in favor of plaintiff and against the public body, (2) impose up to $500 in civil penalties against the person violating or knowingly aiding, agreeing to aid, or attempting to aid in the violation of the OML, and (3) remove the offending public officer from office and assess the officer and/or any person who knowingly aids, agrees to aid, or attempts to aid the officer with all costs and attorneys’ fees awarded to the plaintiff. A.R.S. § 38-431.07(A). Any assessed civil penalties will be deposited in the public body's general fund. Id.
There is no provision for sanctions for a violation of the open meeting requirements of either of the Acts except those which may be imposed if a member is found to be guilty of a misdemeanor. Both Acts provide that it is a misdemeanor for a member of a state or legislative body to attend a meeting in violation of any provision of the Act, where the member intends to deprive the public of information to which the member knows or has reason to know the public is entitled. Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 11130.7 (Bagley-Keene Act); 54959 (Brown Act).
Any resolution, rule, or regulation made or any formal or quasi-formal action taken by a public body at a meeting which is in violation of the statute is declared invalid. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-6-402(8). In all such actions, the prevailing plaintiff recovers costs and reasonable attorney fees. If there is no violation, and if the court finds that the action was frivolous, vexatious, or groundless, then the court shall award costs and reasonable attorney fees to the other party. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-6-402(9).
District of Columbia
The Open Meetings Act does not create a private cause of action for violations of the statute. It instead entrusts enforcement to D.C.'s Office of Open Government. D.C. Code Ann. § 2-579(a). Section 2-579 of the Act specifies several remedies and penalties for noncompliance:
1) If the court finds that a resolution, rule, act, regulation, or other official action was taken, made, or enacted in violation of the Act, the court may order an appropriate remedy, including requiring additional forms of notice, postponing a meeting, or declaring action taken at a meeting to be void. Actions shall not be declared void unless the court finds that the balance of equities compels the action or the court concludes that the violation was not harmless.
2) If the court finds that a public body plans to hold a closed meeting or portion of a meeting in violation of the Act, the court may a) enjoin the public body from closing the meeting or portion of the meeting; b) order that future meetings of the same kind be open to the public; or c) order that the record of a meeting be made public.
3) If the court finds that a member of a public body engages in a pattern or practice of willfully participating in one or more closed meetings in violation of the provisions of the Open Meetings Act, the court may impose a civil fine of not more than $ 250 for each violation.
4) The Act also authorizes courts to grant "such additional relief as it finds necessary to serve the purposes" of the Act.
D.C. Code Ann. § 2-579.
For violations of the open meetings law, officials are guilty of a non-criminal infraction, which is punishable by a fine of less than $500. Fla. Stat. § 286.011(3)(a) (2020). Public officials who knowingly violate the open meetings law by attending a meeting held in violation of the law are guilty of a misdemeanor. Fla. Stat. § 286.011(3)(b). Plaintiffs may recover attorneys’ fees against a public body. Fla. Stat. § 286.011(7).
Any resolution, rule, regulation, ordinance or other official action of an agency adopted, taken, or made at a meeting not open to the public as required by the Act shall not be binding. O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1(b)(2).
In addition, any person knowingly and willfully conducting or participating in a meeting in violation of the Act is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $1,000.00. Alternatively, a civil penalty may be imposed by the court in any civil action brought pursuant to this chapter against any person who negligently violates the terms of this chapter in an amount not to exceed $1,000.00 for the first violation. A civil penalty or criminal fine not to exceed $2,500.00 per violation may be imposed for each additional violation that the violator commits within a 12-month period from the date that the first penalty or fine was imposed. § 50-14-6.
Private persons may sue to enforce the Act’s civil penalty provision and to receive the civil penalty paid. Williams v. DeKalb Cty., 308 Ga. 265, 840 S.E.2d 423 (2020).
Participation in an unlawfully closed meeting may be grounds for recall from office. See Steele v. Honea, 261 Ga. 644, 409 S.E.2d 652 (1991).
"Any final action taken in violation of sections 92-3 and 92-7 may be voidable upon proof of violation. A suit to void any final action shall be commenced within ninety days of the action." See Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92-11. Later, the Hawai‘i Supreme Court decided that deliberations conducted in violation of the executive meeting exceptions in section 92-5 also violate the open meetings requirement of section 92-3. Civil Beat Law Center v. City and County of Honolulu, 144 Hawai‘i 466, 491, 445 P.3d 47, 72 (2019). Because of this, discussions and deliberations that are not “directly related” to an exception under Section 92-5(b), could be voided. Id. While it is not mandatory, courts have discretion to void the board’s final actions upon proof of a violation. Id. Suits may be commenced by any person in the corresponding circuit court of the State where the violation has occurred. See Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92-12. Furthermore, the Sunshine Law provides that "[a]ny person who willfully violates any provisions of [the law] shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction, may be summarily removed from the board unless otherwise provided by the law." Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92-13.
Idaho Code § 74-208 provides for sanctions in the event a governing body fails to comply with Idaho's Open Meeting Law. Under Idaho Code § 74-208(1) any actions taken at a meeting held in violation of the Open Meeting Law will be “null and void.” Under Idaho Code § 74-208(2) a member of a governing body who “conducts or participates in a meeting which violates the provisions of this act” shall be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $250. Under Idaho Code § 74-208(3), a member of a governing body who “knowingly violates the provisions of this act” shall be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $1,500. Finally, Idaho Code § 74-208(4) provides that a member of any governing body who violates any provision of the Open Meeting Law and who has previously been determined (or admitted) to violating the law within twelve (12) months preceding this subsequent violation shall be a subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $2,500.
The open meetings law gives courts broad discretion for punishing violations. 5 ILC 120/3. Parities can file suit for a future or past violation of the open meetings law. 5 ILC 120/3(a). The court may order a future meeting be open, order minutes of a closed meeting to be made public, void any action taken in a closed meeting, and award attorney’s fees to the party who prevails. 5 ILC 120/3(c), (d). Violators of the open meetings law are guilty of a misdemeanor. 5 ILC 120/4.
For violations of the open meetings law, each member of a government body may be fined between $100 and $500. Iowa Code Ann. § 21.6(3)(a). A member can establish his innocence by showing he voted against a closed meeting, had good reason to believe the closure was in compliance with the law, or relied on an official opinion from a court, the state Attorney General or the body’s attorney. Iowa Code Ann. § 21.6(3)(a). The offending members may also be forced to pay attorney’s fees to a party who successfully challenges the closure. Iowa Code Ann. § 21.6(3)(b); Ollinger v. Smith, 889 N.W.2d 476, 480 (Iowa Ct. App. 2015) (“Section 21.6(3)(b) mandates the award of attorney fees to a party successfully establishing a violation of IOMA.”). If an official has previously violated the open meetings law and required to pay damages, that official will be removed from his position. Iowa Code Ann. § 21.6(3)(d). Action taken in a closed meeting may be voided by a court. Iowa Code Ann. § 21.6(3)(c).
Any member who knowingly violates this Act is liable in an amount not to exceed $500 and any action taken is voidable. K.S.A. 75-4320. Action to void must be brought within 21 days. K.S.A. 75-4320(a). However, only the attorney general or county/district attorney have standing to seek voidance. K.S.A. 75-4320; Stoldt v. City of Toronto, 234 Kan. 957, ¶ 1 (1984); Krider v. Bd. of Trustees, 277 Kan. 244 (2004); see also Mid-Continent Specialists, Inc. v. Capital Homes, L.C., 279 Kan. 178 (2005).
“The willful neglect of duty by a member of a governing body in failing to perform those duties imposed by the Kansas Open Meetings Act may constitute grounds for ouster pursuant to K.S.A. 60-1205.” Kan. Att’y Gen. Op. 80-168.
KOMA violations may also be sufficient for recall of elected officials. Collins v. Hoeme, 40 Kan. App.2d 93, 189 P. 3d 566 (2008).
In a lawsuit in which the public agency is held to have willfully violated the Open Meetings Act, the public agency is to pay "any person who prevails . . . costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees, incurred in connection with the legal action." Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.848(6). Moreover, a Circuit Court may also award the person up to $100 for every instance in which the Court finds such a violation.
In addition, “[a]ny rule, resolution, regulation, ordinance, or other formal action of a public agency without substantial compliance with the requirements of [certain provisions of the Open Meetings Act] shall be voidable by a court of competent jurisdiction.” Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.848(5).
The court has jurisdiction and authority to issue all necessary orders to require compliance with, or to prevent noncompliance with, or to declare the rights of parties under the Open Meeting Law. Any noncompliance with the orders of the court may be punished as contempt of court. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42:26(B).
“Any action taken in violation of this Chapter shall be voidable by a court of competent jurisdiction.” La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42:24.
In any enforcement proceeding, the plaintiff may seek and the court may grant any or all of the following forms of relief: (1) A writ of mandamus; (2) Injunctive relief; (3) Declaratory judgment; (4) Judgment rendering the action void as provided in R.S. 42:24; and/or (5) Judgment awarding civil penalties as provided in La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42:28.
Any official action taken in an illegal executive session may be declared null and void. 1 M.R.S.A. § 409(2).
For every willful violation of this subchapter, the state government agency or local government entity whose officer or employee committed the violation is subject to a fine. 1 M.R.S.A. § 410. Fines are tiered for repeated violations within a 4-year period: $500 for a first violation, a fine up to $1000 for a second violation, and a fine up to $2,000 for each additional violation. 1 M.R.S.A. § 410(2). The fine may only be collected by the state, not private persons. See Cook v. Lisbon School Cmte, 682 A.2d 672, 680 (Me. 1996) (“only the Attorney General or his representative may enforce the Freedom of Access Act by seeking imposition of a fine pursuant to section 410”).
A substantially prevailing plaintiff may recover reasonable attorney’s fees and litigation expenses if the court determines that the refusal to provide access to public records or illegal action at a public meeting “was committed in bad faith.” 1 M.R.S.A. § 409(4). Attorney’s fees and litigation costs may not be awarded to or against a federally recognized Indian tribe. Id.
The Open Meetings Act includes a civil penalty provision for knowing and willful violations of the Act. § 3-402. A public body that willfully convenes a closed meeting with knowledge that the meeting is being held in violation of the Act is subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $250 for the first violation and $1,000 for each subsequent violation occurring within 3 years of the first violation. Id.
Yes. If the Attorney General finds a violation of the Open Meeting Law, it may impose various penalties, including:
(1) an order requiring immediate and future compliance with the law,
(2) attendance at a training session,
(3) nullification of any action taken at the relevant meeting,
(4) an order that minutes, or other materials be made public,
(5) reinstatement, with benefits, of an employee who was dismissed at a meeting held in violation of the law,
(6) a fine on the public body of not more than $1,000 for each intentional violation (where the public body did not act in good faith on the advice of legal counsel); or
(7) other appropriate action.
940 C.M.R. 29.07(2)(b), (3). The Attorney General has recommended fines in some cases. See OML 2011-26, -27, -43. Orders of the Attorney General may be appealed to the Superior Court for review “within 21 days of receipt of the order.” 940 C.M.R. § 29.07(5).
The state’s Attorney General, the prosecuting attorney of the county where the public body serves, or any person may commence a civil action to obtain an injunction requiring compliance with the OMA. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.271(1). If a person is successful in obtaining this injunctive relief, the person is entitled to recover "court costs and actual attorney’s fees." Id. “A person cannot recover court costs and actual attorney fees under MCL 15.271(4) unless he or she succeeds in obtaining injunctive relief in the action.” Speicher v. Columbia Twp. Bd. of Trs., 497 Mich. 125, 144, 860 N.W.2d 51, 61 (2014).
Moreover, the OMA provides criminal penalties for noncompliance. A public official who intentionally violates the OMA is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000.00. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.272(1). If the public official intentionally violates the OMA a second time within the same term, the public official will again be guilty of a misdemeanor and receive a maximum fine of $2,000.00 or imprisonment for a maximum of 1 year, or both. Id. § 15.272(2).
A person may also bring a civil action for damages against a public official who violates the OMA. A public official who has intentionally violated the OMA will be held personally liable for "actual and exemplary damages of not more than $500.00 total, plus court costs and actual attorney’s fees." Id. § 15.273(1). This action may be joined with an action for injunctive relief. Id. § 15.273(3).
The OMA provides for substantial fines against universities in certain circumstances. If an institution of higher education violates the OMA with respect to the process of selecting the institution's president at any time after the recommendation of final candidates to the governing board, the institution is responsible for a maximum civil fine of $500,000.00. Id. § 15.273a. This civil fine is in addition to any other remedy or penalty under the OMA. Id.
However, Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §15.270(3) limits when actions to invalidate a decision can be brought to 60 days after the minutes have been made available to the public. Section 15.273 limits causes of action against public officials for intentional violations of OMA to 180 days after the date of violation. See Maiberger v. City of Livonia, 724 F. Supp. 2d 759 (E.D. Mich. 2010).
For intentional violations of the open meetings law, a court may assess each person a civil penalty not to exceed $300. Minn. Stat. § 13D.06, subd. 1. Courts have also held officials can be removed from office for violations of the Open Meeting Law. See Claude v. Collins, 518 N.W.2d 836 (Minn.1994). If a person violates the open meetings law three or more times with respect to the same governing body, they forfeit any right to serve such governing body for a time period equal to the length of their term of office. Minn. Stat. § 13D.06, subd. 3(a). A court may award up to $13,000 in reasonable costs, disbursements and attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party. Minn. Stat. § 13D.06, subd. 4(a). Additionally, for meetings closed pursuant to § 13D.03, subd. 3 (regarding labor negotiation strategies), if an action is brought claiming that other public business was transacted at the meeting, and the court finds that the meeting was improperly closed, a recording of the meeting may be introduced at trial in its entirety. Minn. Stat. § 13D.03, subds. 3(a) and (c).
The Mississippi Legislature adopted a new law in 2011, which took effect July 1, 2011, allowing for penalties to be assessed against individual members of the public body found to have violated the Open Meetings Law. Per the statute, “If the Ethics Commission finds that a member or members of a public body has willfully and knowingly violated the provisions” of the statute, “the Ethics Commission may impose a civil penalty upon the individual members of the public body found to be in violation” up to $500 for a first offense, and up to $1,000 for a second and subsequent offenses, plus all reasonable costs incurred by the person or persons in bringing the complaint. § 25-41-15.
Where the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that a public governmental body or a member of a public governmental body purposefully violated the Sunshine Law, it may order that member to pay a civil fine up to $5,000. Mo.Rev.Stat. § 610.027.4. Where the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that a public governmental body or a member of a public governmental body knowingly violated the Sunshine Law, it may order that member to pay a civil fine up to $1,000. Mo.Rev.Stat.§ 610.027.3. See The Kansas City Star v. Shields, 771 S.W.2d 101, 105 (Mo.Ct.App. 1989) (affirmed a fine imposed on a member of city council who failed to leave a meeting of the council’s finance committee that violated the Sunshine Law); Strake v. Robinwood West Cmty. Improvement Dist., 473 S.W.3d 642, 645 (Mo. banc 2015) (Court held that community improvement district refusal to provide requested documents related to the district’s settlement of a personal injury lawsuit was part of a conscious design, intent, or plan to violate the Sunshine Law with awareness of the probable consequences, therefore amounting to a purposeful violation, even though the settlement agreement included a confidentiality clause barring disclosure unless required by law or by order of the court, and even though the district’s attorney advised the district not to disclose the settlement agreement). But see Laut v. City of Arnold, 491 S.W.3d 191 (Mo. 2016) (Court held that to be subject to penalty under § 610.027.3 the governmental body’s purpose must be to violate the Sunshine law, not merely to not produce a government document for trial).
The court “shall void any action taken in violation of [the law] if the court finds under the facts of the particular case that the public interest in enforcement of the policy of [the law] outweighs the public interest in sustaining the validity of the action taken at the closed meeting.” Mo.Rev.Stat. § 610.027.5.
There is no provision for sanctions, however, a plaintiff who prevails in an action brought in district court to enforce his rights under Article II, §§ 8 and 9, of the Montana Constitution may be awarded his costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. See Mont. Code Ann. § 2-3-221. Further, any action taken in a meeting in violation of Article II, § 9, can be voided. Mont. Code Ann. § 2-3-114. See Bryan v. Yellowstone Co. Elem. Sch. Dist. No. 2, 312 Mont. 257, 60 P.3d 381 (2002) (holding school board decision in violation of Article II, § 9, null and void.
Neb. Rev. Stat. sec. 84-1414(4) makes it a Class IV misdemeanor for first offense and a Class III misdemeanor for second and subsequent offenses for any member of a public body who knowingly violates or conspires to violate the open meetings law, or who remains at a meeting knowing that the public body is violating the law.
NRS 241.035(4) states that if a public body makes a good faith effort to comply with transcription requirements but is prevented from doing so because of factors beyond the public body's reasonable control, including, without limitation, a power outage, a mechanical failure or other unforeseen event, such failure does not constitute a violation of the OML.
Any person who knowingly violates any of the foregoing sections of this act shall be fined $100.00 for the first offense and no less than $100.00 nor more than $500.00 for any subsequent offense.
N.J.S.A. 10:4-17. Whenever a member of a public body believes that a meeting of such body is being held in violation of the provisions of this act, he shall immediately state this at the meeting together with specific reasons for his belief which shall be recorded in the minutes of that meeting. Whenever such a member’s objections to the holding of such meeting are overruled by the majority of those present, such a member may continue to participate at such meeting without penalty provided he has complied with the duties imposed upon him by this section. N.J.S.A. 10:4-17. A court may void any action taken at a meeting held in violation of the Act. N.J.S.A. 10:4-15(a). Injunctive relief is also available. See N.J.S.A. 10:4-16.
A misdemeanor criminal penalty is on the books, but no appellate cases exist. The Attorney General and the District Attorney have authority to bring criminal or civil suits but rarely use or threaten such actions. In 1976, the Attorney General successfully prosecuted an open meetings violation, and in 2002, the Attorney General brought charges and successfully prosecuted five school board members, fining each $500. Any person who is successful in a civil action to enforce the Open Meetings Act "shall" be awarded costs and reasonable attorneys' fees. NMSA 1978 § 10-15-3(C). If meetings are recorded, the recording is a matter of public record, and an agency cannot deny access to it on the basis that the recording was not originally required to be made. See New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, Inspection of Public Records Act Compliance Guide, 26 (8th ed. 2015).
For violations of the open meetings law, a court may void action taken at an improperly closed meeting and could award costs and attorney’s fees to the prevailing party where it is found that a public body voted in private “in material violation” of the law, “or that substantial deliberations occurred in private” that should have occurred in public. Note that, in other instances, such as a failure to fully comply with notice requirements, the sufficiency of a motion for entry into executive session, or the preparation of minutes in a timely manner, the award of attorney’s fees by a court would remain, as it has since 1977, discretionary. N.Y. Pub. Off. Law § 107 (McKinney 2008).
The possible “sanctions” for noncompliance are (1) a declaration that a meeting was held in violation of the Open Meetings Law; (2) an injunction prohibiting further violations; (3) an order declaring null and void any action taken by a public body in violation of the Open Meetings Law; and (4) a possible award of attorney fees to the prevailing party in litigation brought under the Open Meetings Law. G.S. § § 143-318.16, 143-318.16A, 143-318.16B.
The court may award declaratory relief, an injunction, a writ of prohibition or mandamus, costs, disbursements, and reasonable attorney’s fees against the entity. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.2(1). For an intentional or knowing violation, the court may also award damages in an amount equal to one thousand dollars or actual damages caused by the violation, whichever is greater. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.2(1).
Additionally, action taken at an improperly convened meeting is voidable. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.2(2).
A public body will be required to pay a $500 civil forfeiture for each violation of the Sunshine Law, court costs, and attorney fees. Ohio Rev. Code § 121.22(I)(2). The court, in its discretion, may reduce the amount of attorney fees. Id. A $500 fee will be assessed for each instance of an unlawfully secret meeting. Specht v. Finnegan, 149 Ohio App. 3d 201, 776 N.E.2d 564, 2002-Ohio-4660 (Ohio App. 6th Dist.).
Any "resolution, rule, or formal action" adopted in contravention of the Sunshine Law or any "resolution, rule, or formal action" resulting from deliberations conducted in violation of the Sunshine Law is invalid. Ohio Rev. Code § 121.22(H).
A member of a public body who knowingly violates an injunction issued under the Sunshine Law can be removed from office. Ohio Rev. Code § 121.22(I)(4).
A court, in its discretion, may assess a plaintiff who brings a frivolous action under the Sunshine Law court costs and reasonable attorney fees. Ohio Rev. Code § 121.22(I)(2).
Yes. The Act provides three “sanctions:” (1) the court in its discretion may invalidate the official action taken at the meeting; (2) the participants in the meeting may be fined $100; and (3) attorneys’ fees shall be awarded if the agency’s actions in violation of the Act were willful or with wanton disregard (and if the challenge to the meeting is frivolous, the agency shall be awarded attorneys’ fees and costs). 65 Pa. Stat. §§ 713-714.1.
The sanctions include reasonable attorneys fees and costs to a prevailing plaintiff, a declaration that the actions of the public body violative of the statute are null and void, and a civil fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000) against a public body or any of its members found to have willfully and knowingly violated the law. R.I.Gen. Laws § 42-46-8.
In 2004 the South Dakota Legislature passed SDCL §§1-25-6 through 1-25-9 establishing an Open Meeting Commission, the sole function of which is to consider complaints of open meetings law violations that local states attorneys have passed along. The Commission, comprising five states attorneys appointed by the attorney general, reviews any investigatory file and written submissions by the parties and then determines whether a violation has occurred. The Commission enters findings of face, conclusions of law and its decision. The sanction for a violation is a "public reprimand." The Commission's decision is a bar to further prosecution.
For knowingly conspiring to circumvent the open meetings law by meeting in groups of less than a quorum, for improperly closing a meeting or participating in an improperly closed meeting, a member of a governmental body is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable with a fine between $100 and $500 and/or confinement in county jail for one to six months. Attorneys’ fees can be recovered against either party. Action taken at an improperly closed meeting is voidable. Participation in a closed meeting knowing a certified agenda of the meeting is not being kept or that the meeting is not being recorded is a misdemeanor. One who discloses a certified agenda or tape recording of a properly closed meeting is guilty of a misdemeanor and is liable for actual damages, exemplary damages and attorneys’ fees. Tex. Gov’t Code§ 551.141-146.
A person denied any right under the Open Meetings Act may commence suit in a court of competent jurisdiction to compel compliance with or enjoin violations of this chapter, or to determine this chapter’s applicability to a public body’s discussions or decisions. Utah Code § 52-4-303(3). In addition, the court may award reasonable attorney fees’ and court costs to a successful plaintiff. Id. § 52-4-303(4).
The knowing and intentional violation of the open meeting law or participation in the wrongful exclusion of any person from any public meeting is a misdemeanor and carries a fine of not more than $500. 1 V.S.A. § 314(a). In addition, the court may grant injunctive or declaratory relief to an aggrieved plaintiff. Id. § 314(c). In Berlickij v. Town of Caselton, 327 F. Supp. 2d 371, 383 (D. Vt. 2004), despite finding violations of the open meeting law, the court declined to order injunctive relief because the plaintiff was no longer employed by the town and would suffer no unique damages from further violation, there was no evidence of continuing violation, and the court presumed that the town would comply with the law even in the absence of a court order.
Yes. See Va. Code Ann. §§ 2.2-3713 and 3714 (addressing enforcement and penalties). See generally White Dog Publishing v. Culpeper Bd. of Sup., 272 Va. 377, 388, 634 S.E.2d 334, 340-41 (2006) (finding violation of closed meeting procedures and remanding for imposition of attorneys’ fees award).
Any action taken at meetings failing to comply with the Open Public Meetings Act is null and void. RCW 42.30.060. See Clark v. City of Lakewood, 259 F.3d 996 (9th Cir. 2001). Any person may commence an action either by mandamus or injunction to stop violations or prevent threatened violations of the Open Public Meetings Act. RCW 42.30.130. Individual members of the governing body who attend a meeting in violation of the Open Public Meetings Act with knowledge of the fact that the meeting is in violation of the OPMA are subject to personal liability in the amount of a $500 civil penalty (or $1,000 after the first violation). RCW 42.30.120(1), (2). Any person who prevails against a public agency for violation of the Open Public Meetings Act shall be awarded all costs, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, incurred in connection with such legal action. RCW 42.30.120(2).
The West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act, specifically W. Va. Code § 6-9A-7 provides for both civil and criminal penalties for noncompliance. Subsection (a) provides that any person who is a member of a public or governmental body required to conduct open meetings under the Act who willfully and knowingly violates the Act's provisions is guilty of a misdemeanor and is subject to a fine of not more than five hundred dollars. Second or subsequent offenses also constitute misdemeanors for which a minimum fine of not less than one hundred nor more than one thousand may be imposed. W. Va. Code § 6-9A-7(a).
Subsection (b) provides that a public agency, whose governing body is found in a civil action to have conducted a meeting in violation the Act may be liable to a prevailing party for fees and other expenses incurred by the plaintiff in connection with litigating the issue of whether the governing body violated the statute. The subsection contains a caveat that exempts the public agency from paying attorney fees and costs if the court finds that the position of the public agency was substantially justified or that special circumstances make an award of fees and other expenses unjust. W. Va. Code § 6-9A-7(b).
Subsection (c) of W. Va. Code § 6-9A-7 permits a court denying relief in a civil action brought under the Act, may require the complaining person to pay the governing body's necessary attorney fees and expenses, if and only if, the court further finds that the action was frivolous or commenced with the primary intent of harassing the governing body or any member thereof or, in the absence of good faith, of delaying any meetings or decisions of the governing body.
For violations of the open meetings law, violators are fined between $25 and $300 for each violation. Wis. Stat. § 19.96. Violators may avoid the fine by voting to keep the meeting open. Wis. Stat. § 19.96. A court may void any action taken at an improperly closed meeting. Wis. Stat. § 19.97(3). For violations not prosecuted by the state or district attorney, who have the primary responsibility to enforce the open meetings law, private parties may recover attorney fees. Wis. Stat. § 19.97(4).