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An Analytic Framework for Open Meetings and Transparency

PAM, Vol. 15 No. 1, (2010)

Much of the current literature on open public meetings focuses on public participation. We expanded upon this literature and address public meetings from the perspective of governmental transparency. Each state has an open meeting law that applies to its government bodies, including the local governments in the state. Using transparency and public participation literatures and field research, we developed a framework for analyzing open meeting laws and their capacity for fostering transparent practices. As a result, we identified eight components that are most important with respect to transparency: notice and agenda; minutes; closed meeting sessions; public comment; video and audio recordings; electronic meetings; violations, sanctions, fines, and attorneys’ fees; and physical space. Open meeting policies and practices from one state, New Jersey, are offered to illustrate the utility of this framework. Further, a review of open meeting laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia resulted in wide variation as to how they approach these eight aspects of open meeting issues. The components of the framework we provide may be useful to municipal managers when considering an overhaul of their public meeting practices.

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