The seemingly innocent request for input and direction, however, puts the mayor in dangerous territory regarding open records law.
“The second problem is now she’s asking each person to let her know — to send her input that’s discussion and to let her know what they want to do. That’s another form of taking action,” Senat said.
The memo does not qualify as either a public meeting or an executive session where discussion is allowed by a majority. No agenda was posted or notice given.
The law cannot be circumvented by using a memo. According to Title 25 section 306: “No informal gatherings or any electronic or telephonic communications, except teleconferences as authorized by Section 3 of this act, among a majority of the members of a public body shall be used to decide any action or to take any vote on any matter.”
A memo may be more convenient than scheduling another executive session, but it is not allowable under the law.
“The state Supreme Court said back in 1981, this (open meeting) statute is to be construed liberally in favor of the public,” Senat said. “Their interpretation seems to be the opposite.”
Rosenthal believes she did not violate the open meetings law.
“There were two interpretations there, and I can’t read people’s minds,” Rosenthal said. “The answer may still be to have another executive session.”
Senat said the law is seldom convenient.
“This speaks to a culture at Norman City Hall that’s not favoring the public’s right to know,” he said.