A month after a public hearing stirred up debate over media access, a civilian advisory committee for Minneapolis' $20 million Upper Harbor Terminal project got a refresher course on the state's Open Meeting Law.
City Clerk Casey Carl spoke to about a dozen people, a mix of committee members and residents, at the University of Minnesota's Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center in north Minneapolis on Monday evening.
After his presentation, Carl took questions, including whether disruptive people could be removed from a meeting. No, Carl said, "even the council can't close a meeting because the public is disruptive." In answer to more questions, he also said people at the meetings can be asked, although not required, to identify themselves by name and journalists covering the meeting are allowed to record or photograph without first obtaining permission.
A meeting last month descended into what one committee member described as "chaos," after several members expressed concerns about having their pictures taken. That led to a debate about what the news media can report about a public meeting. The short answer, under state law, is almost anything at a public meeting where official city business is being conducted, Carl said Monday.
"The Open Meeting Law says that because you're a public body, because you are appointed officers of the city conducting city business, the meetings that you have have to meet certain requirements," he said. "Just like the City Council."
The committee's bylaws direct that its meetings be open to the public. The state's Open Meeting Law says that "with limited exceptions ... all meetings of public bodies in Minnesota must be open to the public."
Two journalists left January's meeting in protest after committee members asked them to stop taking photographs or video recording the proceedings. Committee members also raised concerns about the lack of diversity among local media, which some argued contributed to historically unfair coverage of minority communities.
The City Council appointed the committee last year to advise officials on the riverfront redevelopment project as the city prepares to ask the state Legislature for $20 million for the project.
The body is made up of residents from north and northeast Minneapolis. Its next meeting is set for Wednesday.