W.Va. ethics panel to redo meet due to violation

CHARLESTON (AP) — The West Virginia Ethics Commission is redoing its December meeting because of a mistake that resulted in a violation of the state’s Open Meetings Act.

The commission posted a public notice of the meeting on its website but failed to post a similar notice with the Secretary of State’s Office, Executive Director Joan Parker said Thursday.

The open meetings law requires public agencies to provide advance notice to the public and media of any meeting where a quorum of the agencies’ governing bodies will be present, and where matters requiring official action will be discussed or decided. State agencies must file a notice of meetings with the Secretary of State’s Office for publication in the weekly State Register, which is posted on the office’s website.

“We just forgot to post it on the Secretary of State’s Office’s website,” Parker said.

While the mistake is embarrassing, Parker said it also is an opportunity to show other public agencies that they can rectify inadvertent violations of the open meetings law.

“We wanted openly to acknowledge our mistake. But also, we saw that as an opportunity to educate other government bodies and say, ‘Hey, it’s not the end of the world. If you screw up, there is a way to fix it,'” she said.

In 2005, the Ethic’s Commission’s Commission on Open Governmental Meetings issued an advisory opinion that laid out steps for government bodies to take when they inadvertently violate the law and must reconsider official actions taken at the meeting. These steps include public notice of the new meeting and the matters to be reconsidered, and giving the public an opportunity to comment before any action is taken on such matters.

Parker said the commission interprets the open meetings law but it doesn’t enforce the statute.

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