Has a New Open Meetings Act
Alabama’s new Open Meetings Act
went into effect October
1. The new law replaces the 90-year-old Sunshine Law, which
allowed public officials to meet privately to discuss the
“good name and character” of an individual.
The new Open Meetings Act requires that
- All committee and subcommittee meetings of government
bodies must be open.
- Advance notice of all meetings must be given.
- Secret ballots are prohibited.
- Job performance of public officials (including fire
chiefs, school superintendents and public employees earning more than
$50,000 a year) cannot be discussed behind closed doors.
- Electronic media and communications cannot be used to
circumvent the goal of an open meeting.
- News media representatives may tape meetings.
- Officials acting within the parameters of the law
will be immune from liability for statements made during meetings.
Criminal punishment for violating the law was
abolished. Instead, citizens can sue public officials over
violations and seek monetary damages. While closing the
“good name and character” loophole, the new law
still provides nine exemptions for officials to call
“executive sessions,” which do not have to be