What are the requirements for posting notice of meetings?
Except in cases of emergency, a public body must provide the public with notice of its meeting 48 hours in advance, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays. Notice of emergency meetings must be posted as soon as reasonably possible prior to the meeting. Also note that other laws, such as those governing procedures for public hearings, may require additional notice.
What are the requirements for filing and posting meeting notices for local public bodies?
For local public bodies, meeting notices must be filed with the municipal clerk with enough time to permit posting of the notice at least 48 hours in advance of the public meeting. Notices may be posted on a bulletin board, in a loose-leaf binder, or on an electronic display (e.g. television, computer monitor, or an electronic bulletin board), Open Meeting Law Guide Page 6 Version 3.18.15
provided that the notice is conspicuously visible to the public at all hours in or on the municipal building in which the clerk's office is located. In the event that the meeting notices posted in the municipal building are not visible to the public at all hours, then the municipality must either post notices on the outside of the building or follow one of these alternative posting methods approved by the Attorney General in 940 CMR 29.03(2)(b):
- public bodies may post notice of meetings on the municipal website;
- public bodies may post notice of meetings on cable television, AND, post notice or provide cable television access in an alternate municipal building (e.g., police or fire station) where the notice is accessible at all hours;
- public bodies may post notice of meetings in a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality, AND, post notice or a copy of the newspaper containing the meeting notice at an alternate municipal building (e.g., police or fire station) where the notice is accessible at all hours;
- public bodies may place a computer monitor or electronic or physical bulletin board displaying meeting notices on or in a door, window, or near the entrance of the municipal building in which the clerk's office is located in such a manner as to be visible to the public from outside the building; or
- public bodies may provide an audio recording of meeting notices, available to the public by telephone at all hours.
Prior to utilizing an alternative posting method, the clerk of the municipality must inform the Division of Open Government of its notice posting method and must inform the Division of any future changes to that posting method. Public bodies must consistently use the most current notice posting method on file with the Division. A description of the alternative posting method must also be posted on or adjacent to the main and handicapped accessible entrances to the building where the clerk's office is located. Note that, even if an alternative posting method has been adopted, meeting notices must still be available in or around the clerk's office so that members of the public may view the notices during normal business hours.
What are the requirements for posting notices for regional, district, county and state public bodies?
- For regional or district public bodies and regional school districts, meeting notices must be filed and posted in the same manner required of local public bodies in each of the communities within the region or district. As an alternative method of notice, a regional or district public body may post a meeting notice on the regional or district public body's website. A copy of the notice must be filed and kept by the chair of the public body or the chair's designee.
- County public bodies must file meeting notices in the office of the county commissioners and post notice of the meeting in a manner conspicuously visible to the public at all hours at a place or places designated by the county commissioners for notice postings. As an alternative method of notice, a county public body may post notice of meetings on the county public body's website. A copy of the notice shall be filed and kept by the chair of the county public body or the chair's designee.
- State public bodies must file meeting notices by posting the notice on the website of the public body or its parent agency. The chair of a state public body must notify the Attorney General in writing of the website address where notices will be posted, and of any subsequent changes to that posting location. A copy of each meeting notice must also be sent to the Secretary of State's Regulations Division and should be forwarded to the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, which maintains a listing of state public body meetings.
A note about accessibility.
Public bodies are subject to all applicable state and federal laws that govern accessibility for persons with disabilities. These laws include the Americans with Disabilities Act, the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and state constitutional provisions. For instance, public bodies that adopt website posting as an alternative method of notice must ensure that the website utilizes technology that is readily accessible to people with disabilities, including individuals who use screen readers. All open meetings of public bodies must be accessible to persons with disabilities. Meeting locations must be accessible by wheelchair, without the need for special assistance. Also sign language interpreters for deaf or hearing-impaired persons must be provided, subject to reasonable advance notice.3 The Attorney General's Disability Rights Project is available to answer questions about accessibility and may be reached at
The Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing will assist with arrangements for a sign language interpreter. The Commission may be reached at 617-740-1600 VOICE and 617-740-1700 TTY.
What information must meeting notices contain?
Meeting notices must be posted in a legible, easily understandable format; contain the date, time, and place of the meeting; and list all topics that the chair reasonably anticipates, 48 hours in advance, will be discussed at the meeting. The list of topics must be sufficiently specific to reasonably inform the public of the issues to be discussed at the meeting. Where there are no anticipated topics for discussion in open session other than the procedural requirements for convening an executive session, the public body should list "open session" as a topic, in addition to the executive session, so the public is aware that it has the opportunity to attend and learn the basis for the executive session. Open Meeting Law Guide Page 8 Version 3.18.15
Meeting notices must also indicate the date and time that the notice was posted, either on the notice itself or in a document or website accompanying the notice. If a notice is revised, the revised notice must also conspicuously record both the date and time the original notice was posted as well as the date and time the last revision was posted. Recording the date and time enables the public to observe that public bodies are complying with the Open Meeting Law's notice requirements without requiring constant vigilance. Additionally, in the event of a complaint, it provides the Attorney General with evidence of compliance with those requirements.
If a discussion topic is proposed after a meeting notice is posted, and it was not reasonably anticipated by the chair more than 48 hours before the meeting, the public body should update its posting to provide the public with as much notice as possible of what subjects will be discussed during the meeting. Although a public body may consider a topic that was not listed in the meeting notice if it was not anticipated, the Attorney General strongly encourages public bodies to postpone discussion and action on topics that are controversial or may be of particular interest to the public if the topic was not listed in the meeting notice.