SURREY, N.D. — The city of Surrey violated North Dakota's open meetings law earlier this year when it failed to properly notice meetings of a council committee, according to the North Dakota Attorney General's Office.
In an opinion issued July 19 in response to a citizen's inquiry, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem stated a staffing committee that met on five occasions in March and a second staffing committee that met twice in May failed to follow noticing requirements.
Agendas were prepared and posted in the city auditor's office and at the location of the meeting, with the exception of a May 8 meeting. At its regular meeting on June 3, the city council acknowledged the error of failing to post notice of the May 8 meeting and attempted to remedy the situation by drafting minutes and discussing topics covered at the committee meeting, the opinion stated.
The notice would have been sufficient for a regular meeting that is part of a filed yearly schedule. However, a special meeting requires notice be provided to the official newspaper of record, and that did not occur, Stenehjem wrote.
The city was directed to prepare, within seven days, more detailed minutes of the May 8 meeting and provide them to members of the public who request them.
The Attorney General was also asked whether the staffing committee violated the open meeting law on May 22 when members spoke quietly or pointed at paperwork instead of speaking, making it impossible for the public in attendance to follow the discussion. The city responded that members spoke in conversational tone and there was some gesturing to a chart while it was being discussed, but there was no attempt to exclude the public. Before the start of the meeting, the ventilation system was turned off to avoid interfering with the ability to hear during the meeting, and there were no requests to speak louder. The Attorney General found no violation occurred.
Surrey is about 8 miles east of Minot.