Open Meeting Law

The purpose of the Open Meeting Law is to eliminate much of the secrecy surrounding the deliberations and decisions on which public policy is based. The Open Meeting Law supports the principle that the democratic process depends on the public having knowledge about the considerations underlying governmental action.  The Open Meeting Law requires that most meetings of governmental bodies be held in public.

There are some exceptions, which are designed to ensure that public officials are not  “unduly hampered” by having  every discussion among public officials open to the public.  As a result, the Open Meeting Law provides for particular circumstances under which a meeting may be held in executive, or closed, session.

Historically, the Attorney General has enforced the Open Meeting Law applicable to state governmental bodies, and district attorney’s offices were responsible for enforcement of the laws relative to cities, towns, and counties.

However, as a result of the 2009 Ethics Reform Bill, the Open Meeting Law was recently revised and has centralized responsibility for state-wide enforcement of the law in the Office of the Attorney General.  The effective date of the revised law was July 1, 2010.

For more information about the revised law, please review the Attorney General’s Office website.

Please contact the Attorney General’s Office for enforcement of open meeting law complaints in Boston, Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop.

For information about the Open Meeting Law for cities and towns in Suffolk County, M.G.L. c. 39, s. 23B, or to report a violation of that law by a city or town, please contact the General Counsel’s Office, within the Office of Attorney General Martha Coakley, at (617) 727-2200.

For more comprehensive information about the Open Meeting Law, please view the Attorney General’s Open Meeting Law Guidelines (PDF).