Thursday, Jun. 3, 2010
Top: Fourth Annual Public Law Conference Keynote Speaker Robert Nasdor, director of the Division of Open Government at the Office of the Attorney General in Boston.
Bottom: Left to right: Conference faculty Stephanie Zierten, Esq., deputy general counsel of the Massachusetts Information Technology Division in Boston and Jessica Weiss, Esq., project & social media coordinator of Mass.gov®, Massachusetts Information Technology Division in Boston.
Photos by Tricia Oliver.
Fourth Annual Public Law Conference discusses Open Meeting Law, social media in government
Attendees at the Massachusetts Bar Association's Fourth Annual
Public Law Conference on June 2 learned about the ramifications of
the commonwealth's changes to the Open Meeting Law and recommended
boundaries for government agencies using social media.
Conference Keynote Speaker Robert Nasdor, director of the Division
of Open Government at the Office of the Attorney General in Boston,
spoke about the Attorney General's Office's interpretation of the
changes to the Open Meeting Law.
The new Open Meeting Law mandates that the chair of an official
body post a publicly accessible meeting notice, along with a list
of all reasonably anticipated topics, at least 48 hours in advance
of the meeting. Conference attendees expressed concern regarding
the specificity of the topics listed, as well as the difficulty of
finding an acceptable public location for the notices. While Nasdor
acknowledged that municipal officials may need clarification on
changes to the Open Meeting Law, small adjustments can help
municipalities meet the new requirements. Nasdor explained that
officials should consider three factors to determine whether a body
must adhere to the open meeting law:
- The body's charge;
- Whether the body is formally created; and
- Whether it performs a public function.
Conference faculty Jessica Weiss, Esq. and Stephanie Zierten,
Esq., both of the Massachusetts Information Technology Division in
Boston, presented a session on "The Use of Social Media by
Government Agencies." Zierten and Weiss reviewed what social media
boundaries government officials should implement to avoid potential
legal problems. For governmental agencies using social media, the
biggest barriers include the Open Meeting Law, public records law
Weiss and Zierten also cautioned conference attendees that
employers should clearly list expectations regarding employees' use
of social media.
"Every tweet is a public record," said Weiss. "Social media is a
tool to achieve communications goals - but right now it's very
unclear what the implications are."