2005 Regular Session
To: Judiciary, Division B
By: Senator(s) Dawkins
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 25-41-5, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROHIBIT PROXY VOTING AND SECRET BALLOTS; TO AMEND SECTION 25-41-7, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REQUIRE CLARITY IN THE STATEMENT OF NECESSITY FOR AN EXECUTIVE SESSION; TO AMEND SECTION 25-41-11, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REVISE THE REQUIREMENTS CONCERNING THE MINUTES OF A PUBLIC BODY; TO AMEND SECTION 25-41-15, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO EXPAND THE RELIEF AVAILABLE TO A PLAINTIFF IN COURT; TO AMEND SECTION 25-61-7, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO CLARIFY THE FEES THAT A PUBLIC BODY MAY CHARGE THOSE UTILIZING THE PUBLIC RECORDS ACT TO OBTAIN COPIES OF PUBLIC RECORDS OF THE BODY; TO AMEND SECTION 25-61-15, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REVISE THE PENALTY FOR WILLFUL DENIAL OF ACCESS TO PUBLIC RECORDS; TO AMEND SECTION 25-4-25, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REQUIRE COUNTY AGENCY HEADS TO FILE AN ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF ECONOMIC INTEREST; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 25-41-5, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
25-41-5. (1) All official meetings of any public body, unless otherwise provided in this chapter or in the Constitutions of the United States of America or the State of Mississippi, are declared to be public meetings and shall be open to the public at all times unless declared an executive session as provided in Section 25-41-7.
(2) A public body may conduct any meeting, other than an executive session called pursuant to Section 25-41-7, wherein public business is discussed or transacted, through teleconference or video means. If a quorum of the public body is physically assembled at one (1) location for the purpose of conducting a meeting, additional members of the public body may participate in the meeting through teleconference or video means provided their participation is available to the general public.
(3) (a) Notice of any meetings held pursuant to subsection (2) of this section shall be provided at least thirty (30) days in advance of the date scheduled for the meeting. The notice shall include the date, time, place and purpose for the meeting and shall identify the locations for the meeting. All locations for the meeting shall be made accessible to the public. All persons attending the meeting at any of the meeting locations shall be afforded the same opportunity to address the public body as persons attending the primary or central location. Any interruption in the teleconference or video broadcast of the meeting shall result in the suspension of action at the meeting until repairs are made and public access restored.
(b) Thirty-day notice shall not be required for teleconference or video meetings continued to address an emergency as provided in subsection (5) of this section or to conclude the agenda of a teleconference or video meeting of the public body for which the proper notice has been given, when the date, time, place and purpose of the continued meeting are set during the meeting prior to adjournment.
(4) An agenda and materials that will be distributed to members of the public body and that have been made available to the staff of the public body in sufficient time for duplication and forwarding to all locations where public access will be provided shall be made available to the public at the time of the meeting. Minutes of all meetings held by teleconference or video means shall be recorded as required by Section 25-41-11. Votes taken during any meeting conducted through teleconference or video means shall be recorded by name in roll-call fashion and included in the minutes. In addition, the public body shall make an audio recording of the meeting, if a teleconference medium is used, or an audio/visual recording, if the meeting is held by video means. The recording shall be preserved by the public body for a period of three (3) years following the date of the meeting and shall be available to the public.
(5) A public body may meet by teleconference or video means as often as needed if an emergency exists and the public body is unable to meet in regular session. Public bodies conducting emergency meetings through teleconference or video means shall comply with the provisions of subsection (4) of this section requiring minutes, recordation and preservation of the audio or audio/visual recording of the meeting. The nature of the emergency shall be stated in the minutes.
(6) A public body is prohibited from utilizing any manner of proxy voting procedure, secret balloting or any other means to circumvent the intent of this chapter.
SECTION 2. Section 25-41-7, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
25-41-7. (1) Any public body may enter into executive session for the transaction of public business; provided, however, all meetings of any such public body shall commence as an open meeting, and an affirmative vote of three-fifths (3/5) of all members present shall be required to declare an executive session.
(2) The procedure to be followed by any public body in declaring an executive session shall be as follows: Any member shall have the right to request by motion a closed determination upon the issue of whether or not to declare an executive session. Such motion, by majority vote, shall require the meeting to be closed for a preliminary determination of the necessity for executive session. No other business shall be transacted until the discussion of the nature of the matter requiring executive session has been completed and a vote, as required in subsection (1) hereof, has been taken on the issue.
(3) An executive session shall be limited to matters allowed to be exempted from open meetings by subsection (4) of this section. The reason for holding such an executive session shall be stated in an open meeting; * * * the reason so stated shall be recorded in the minutes of the meeting and must be of sufficient clarity and specificity to inform those present that there is in reality a specific, discrete matter or area which the public body has determined should be discussed in executive session. Nothing in this section shall be construed to require that any meeting be closed to the public, nor shall any executive session be used to circumvent or to defeat the purposes of this chapter.
(4) A public body may hold an executive session pursuant to this section for one or more of the following reasons:
(a) Transaction of business and discussion of personnel matters relating to the job performance, character, professional competence, or physical or mental health of a person holding a specific position.
(b) Strategy sessions or negotiations with respect to prospective litigation, litigation or issuance of an appealable order when an open meeting would have a detrimental effect on the litigating position of the public body.
(c) Transaction of business and discussion regarding the report, development or course of action regarding security personnel, plans or devices.
(d) Investigative proceedings by any public body regarding allegations of misconduct or violation of law.
(e) Any body of the Legislature which is meeting on matters within the jurisdiction of such body.
(f) Cases of extraordinary emergency which would pose immediate or irrevocable harm or damage to persons and/or property within the jurisdiction of such public body.
(g) Transaction of business and discussion regarding the prospective purchase, sale or leasing of lands.
(h) Discussions between a school board and individual students who attend a school within the jurisdiction of such school board or the parents or teachers of such students regarding problems of such students or their parents or teachers.
(i) Transaction of business and discussion concerning the preparation of tests for admission to practice in recognized professions.
(j) Transaction of business and discussions or negotiations regarding the location, relocation or expansion of a business or an industry.
(k) Transaction of business and discussions regarding employment or job performance of a person in a specific position or termination of an employee holding a specific position. The exemption provided by this paragraph includes the right to enter into executive session concerning a line item in a budget which might affect the termination of an employee or employees. All other budget items shall be considered in open meetings and final budgetary adoption shall not be taken in executive session.
(5) The total vote on the question of entering into an executive session shall be recorded and spread upon the minutes of such public body.
(6) Any such vote whereby an executive session is declared shall be applicable only to that particular meeting on that particular day.
SECTION 3. Section 25-41-11, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
25-41-11. (1) Minutes shall be kept of all meetings of a public body, whether in open or executive session, showing the members present and absent; the date, time and place of the meeting; an accurate recording of any final actions taken at such meeting; and a record, by individual member, of any votes taken; and any other information that the public body requests be included or reflected in the minutes. A copy of any document, letter, manual or other extrinsic evidence approved by a public body shall be incorporated into its minutes or a copy shall be included in the minutes. The minutes shall be recorded within a reasonable time not to exceed thirty (30) days after recess or adjournment, shall be entered into the official Minute Book within twenty-four (24) hours after signing, and shall be open to public inspection during regular business hours. A draft copy of the minutes shall be available for public inspection not less than five (5) days after adjournment or recess of the public body and remain available until the official, approved and signed minutes are available. The Legislature encourages all public bodies to maintain minutes on the Internet for public inspection.
(2) Minutes of a meeting conducted by teleconference or video means shall comply with the requirements of Section 25-41-5.
(3) Minutes of legislative committee meetings shall consist of a written record of attendance and final actions taken at such meetings.
SECTION 4. Section 25-41-15, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
25-41-15. The chancery courts of this state shall have the authority to enforce the provisions of this chapter upon application of any citizen of the state, and shall have the authority to issue injunctions, writs of mandamus, a declaratory judgment, judgment rendering the action of the public body void, judgment awarding civil penalties, or any combination of these, to accomplish that purpose. If the court finds that a public body has willfully and knowingly violated the provisions of this chapter, the court may impose a civil penalty upon each member of the public body who participated in the violation in a sum not to exceed One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) per violation, plus all reasonable expenses incurred by the person or persons in bringing suit to enforce this chapter; the total amount awarded as recompense for attorney's fees shall not exceed Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00). Any noncompliance with the requirements of this chapter may additionally be punished as contempt of court.
SECTION 5. Section 25-61-7, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
25-61-7. (1) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, each public body may establish and collect fees reasonably calculated to reimburse it for, and in no case to exceed, the actual cost of searching, reviewing and/or duplicating and, if applicable, mailing copies of public records. Such fees shall be collected by the public body in advance of complying with the request.
(2) A public body may establish a standard fee scale to reimburse it for the costs of creating, acquiring and maintaining a geographic information system or multipurpose cadastre as authorized and defined under Section 25-61-1 et seq., or any other electronically accessible data. Such fees must be reasonably related to the cost of creating, acquiring and maintaining the geographic information system, multipurpose cadastre or other electronically accessible data, for the data or information contained therein or taken therefrom and for any records, papers, accounts, maps, photographs, films, cards, tapes, recordings or other materials, data or information relating thereto, whether in printed, digital or other format. In determining the fees or charges under this subsection, the public body may consider the type of information requested, the purpose or purposes for which the information has been requested and the commercial value of the information. The fees shall be limited to the actual costs over and above the public body's administrative budget to include cost of overtime wages, hiring additional personnel and additional materials and services, with the charge for labor by the public body's employees being limited to the lowest hourly pay scale in the administrative department. Charges for shipping, postage, copying or duplication of requested records shall be not more than the actual costs. An itemized bill shall be given to the person requesting public records at the time of delivery of the records.
SECTION 6. Section 25-61-15, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
25-61-15. Any person who shall willfully and knowingly deny to any person access to any public record which is not exempt from the provisions of this chapter shall be liable civilly in a sum not to exceed One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00), plus all reasonable expenses incurred by such person bringing the lawsuit.
SECTION 7. Section 25-4-25, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
25-4-25. Each of the following individuals shall file a statement of economic interest with the commission in accordance with the provisions of this chapter:
(a) Persons elected by popular vote, excluding United States Senators and United States Representatives, to any office, whether it be legislative, executive or judicial, and whether it be statewide, district, county, municipal or any other political subdivision, with the exception of members of boards of levee commissioners and election commissioners;
(b) Members of local school boards that administer public funds, regardless of whether such members are elected or appointed;
(c) Persons who are candidates for public office or who are appointed to fill a vacancy in an office who, if elected, would be required to file under paragraph (a) of this section;
(d) Executive directors or heads of state agencies, by whatever name they are designated, who are paid in part or in whole, directly or indirectly, from funds appropriated or authorized to be expended by the Legislature, executive directors or heads of county agencies, by whatever name they are designated, and the presidents and trustees of all state-supported colleges, universities and junior colleges;
(e) Members of any state board, commission or agency, including the Mississippi Ethics Commission, charged with the administration or expenditure of public funds, with the exception of advisory boards or commissions; provided, however, in order to fulfill the legislative purposes of this chapter, the commission may require, upon a majority vote, the filing of a statement of economic interest by members of an advisory board or commission.
SECTION 8. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2005.