Posted by: Patricia Salkin | February 1, 2010

Failure by Board to Comply with Public Meetings Act Invalidates Action

The Wyoming Supreme Court found that a municipal building code appeals board erred in holding a closed or secret meeting on an appeal from the denial of a demolition permit for six homes in a historic district.  The Building Code Board of Appeals conducted a public contested case hearing, where the parties were represented by counsel, witnesses were heard, and exhibits presented. At the close of the hearing, the Board retired to deliberate in private. These private deliberations, which the Board characterized as “quasi-judicial” rather than “executive session,” extended into a later meeting. The Board then convened a separate public meeting, where it discussed its prior deliberations and then voted to affirm the denial of the demolition permits. A newspaper filed an action claiming that the private meetings invalidated the Board’s decision.  The applicable statute provides that “all meetings of the governing body of an agency are public meetings, open to the public at all times,” and that no action can be taken except during a public meeting. “Action taken at a meeting not in conformity with this act is null and void and not merely voidable.” The court held, as an initial matter, that the newspaper, as the public’s representative, had standing to seek a declaration to determine the applicability of the Act.  The deliberations were a “meeting” pursuant to the Act, ones that the Board was required to hold in public. However, because the Board members took action only later, at an appropriately-called public meeting, the Board’s decision was invalidated.

Cheyenne Newspapers Inc. v. Building Code Board of Appeals, 2010 WL 47357 (WY. 1/8/2010)

The opinion can be accessed at:  http://www.courts.state.wy.us/Opinions/2010WY2.pdf

This abstract is based on one in the recent issue of the IMLA E-News.  For more information about IMLA, visit www.imla.org


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