The MSB set up a “Sales Tax Task Force” in the fall of 2017.
This task force was suggested by Assembly member Matthew Beck and approved at a MSB Assembly meeting a few months earlier.
However, the MSB did NOT let the public know any details about the task force. The members of this task force were not announced. The meetings were NOT listed on the MSB’s website or newspaper ads.
I happened to find the (below) letter about the Task Force on the Mat-Su School District’s website. This letter was part of “Board Connect” which is a section of the School Board’s Agenda packet.
Why was the MSB completely MUM about this task force and its meetings? Where was the public process? Why wasn’t the public allowed to attend the meetings and give input? Also, a source tells me that the City of Palmer was upset about not having a representative on the task force.
This was a violation of the OPEN MEETINGS ACT.
The MSB only informed the public when the Task Force gave a presentation at a MSB Assembly meeting in December.
AS 44.62.310. Government Meetings Public.
- (a) All meetings of a governmental body of a public entity of the state are open to the public except as otherwise provided by this section or another provision of law. Attendance and participation at meetings by members of the public or by members of a governmental body may be by teleconferencing. Agency materials that are to be considered at the meeting shall be made available at teleconference locations if practicable. Except when voice votes are authorized, the vote shall be conducted in such a manner that the public may know the vote of each person entitled to vote. The vote at a meeting held by teleconference shall be taken by roll call. This section does not apply to any votes required to be taken to organize a governmental body described in this subsection.
- (b) If permitted subjects are to be discussed at a meeting in executive session, the meeting must first be convened as a public meeting and the question of holding an executive session to discuss matters that are listed in (c) of this section shall be determined by a majority vote of the governmental body. The motion to convene in executive session must clearly and with specificity describe the subject of the proposed executive session without defeating the purpose of addressing the subject in private. Subjects may not be considered at the executive session except those mentioned in the motion calling for the executive session unless auxiliary to the main question. Action may not be taken at an executive session, except to give direction to an attorney or labor negotiator regarding the handling of a specific legal matter or pending labor negotiations.
- (c) The following subjects may be considered in an executive session:
- (1) matters, the immediate knowledge of which would clearly have an adverse effect upon the finances of the public entity;
- (2) subjects that tend to prejudice the reputation and character of any person, provided the person may request a public discussion;
- (3) matters which by law, municipal charter, or ordinance are required to be confidential;
- (4) matters involving consideration of government records that by law are not subject to public disclosure.
- (d) This section does not apply to
- (1) a governmental body performing a judicial or quasi-judicial function when holding a meeting solely to make a decision in an adjudicatory proceeding;
- (2) juries;
- (3) parole or pardon boards;
- (4) meetings of a hospital medical staff;
- (5) meetings of the governmental body or any committee of a hospital when holding a meeting solely to act upon matters of professional qualifications, privileges or discipline;
- (6) staff meetings or other gatherings of the employees of a public entity, including meetings of an employee group established by policy of the Board of Regents of the University of Alaska or held while acting in an advisory capacity to the Board of Regents; or
- (7) meetings held for the purpose of participating in or attending a gathering of a national, state, or regional organization of which the public entity, governmental body, or member of the governmental body is a member, but only if no action is taken and no business of the governmental body is conducted at the meetings.
- (e) Reasonable public notice shall be given for all meetings required to be open under this section. The notice must include the date, time, and place of the meeting and if, the meeting is by teleconference, the location of any teleconferencing facilities that will be used. Subject to posting notice of a meeting on the Alaska Online Public Notice System as required by AS 44.62.175 (a), the notice may be given using print or broadcast media. The notice shall be posted at the principal office of the public entity or, if the public entity has no principal office, at a place designated by the governmental body. The governmental body shall provide notice in a consistent fashion for all its meetings.
- (f) Action taken contrary to this section is voidable. A lawsuit to void an action taken in violation of this section must be filed in superior court within 180 days after the date of the action. A member of a governmental body may not be named in an action to enforce this section in the member’s personal capacity. A governmental body that violates or is alleged to have violated this section may cure the violation or alleged violation by holding another meeting in compliance with notice and other requirements of this section and conducting a substantial and public reconsideration of the matters considered at the original meeting. If the court finds that an action is void, the governmental body may discuss and act on the matter at another meeting held in compliance with this section. A court may hold that an action taken at a meeting held in violation of this section is void only if the court finds that, considering all of the circumstances, the public interest in compliance with this section 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 shall consider at least the following:
- (1) the expense that may be incurred by the public entity, other governmental bodies, and individuals if the action is voided;
- (2) the disruption that may be caused to the affairs of the public entity, other governmental bodies, and individuals if the action is voided;
- (3) the degree to which the public entity, other governmental bodies, and individuals may be exposed to additional litigation if the action is voided;
- (4) the extent to which the governing body, in meetings held in compliance with this section, has previously considered the subject;
- (5) the amount of time that has passed since the action was taken;
- (6) the degree to which the public entity, other governmental bodies, or individuals have come to rely on the action;
- (7) whether and to what extent the governmental body has, before or after the lawsuit was filed to void the action, engaged in or attempted to engage in the public reconsideration of matters originally considered in violation of this section;
- (8) the degree to which violations of this section were wilful, flagrant, or obvious;
- (9) the degree to which the governing body failed to adhere to the policy under AS 44.62.312 (a).
- (g) Subsection (f) of this section does not apply to a governmental body that has only authority to advise or make recommendations to a public entity and has no authority to establish policies or make decisions for the public entity.
- (h) In this section,
- (1) “governmental body” means an assembly, council, board, commission, committee, or other similar body of a public entity with the authority to establish policies or make decisions for the public entity or with the authority to advise or make recommendations to the public entity; “governmental body” includes the members of a subcommittee or other subordinate unit of a governmental body if the subordinate unit consists of two or more members;
- (2) “meeting” means a gathering of members of a governmental body when
- (A) more than three members or a majority of the members, whichever is less, are present, a matter upon which the governmental body is empowered to act is considered by the members collectively, and the governmental body has the authority to establish policies or make decisions for a public entity; or
- (B) the gathering is prearranged for the purpose of considering a matter upon which the governmental body is empowered to act and the governmental body has only authority to advise or make recommendations for a public entity but has no authority to establish policies or make decisions for the public entity;
- (3) “public entity” means an entity of the state or of a political subdivision of the state including an agency, a board or commission, the University of Alaska, a public authority or corporation, a municipality, a school district, and other governmental units of the state or a political subdivision of the state; it does not include the court system or the legislative branch of state government.
Here’s how other localities have dealt with the same type of issue: