What type of notice is required for a meeting of a governmental body?
Answer: The Wisconsin Open Meetings Law requires that public notice of every meeting of a governmental body must be provided at least 24 hours prior to the meeting. If, for good cause, such notice is impossible or impractical, shorter notice may be given, but in no case may the notice be less than two hours in advance of the meeting. (There is little guidance as to what constitutes “good cause”; like the entire open meetings law, this provision should be interpreted in favor of providing the public with the fullest and most complete information.) The law requires separate public notice for each meeting at a time and date “reasonably proximate to the time and date of the meeting.”
A governmental body’s chief presiding officer or his or her designee must provide notice to the following: the public; to news media who filed a written request for such notice; and to the official newspaper, or if there is no official newspaper, to a news medium likely to give notice in the area. Other statutes, other than the open meetings law, may also establish notice requirements for governmental body meetings. The notice must provide the time, date, place, and subject matter of the meeting.
The notice must be written such that it is reasonably likely to apprise members of the public and the news media of this information. Governmental bodies often provide notice to the public by paid publication or posting in one or more places likely to be seen by the public. Although not specifically required by the open meetings law, the Department of Justice has long recommended that a governmental body post in three separate physical locations. Posting notice on the governmental body’s website may be used as a supplement—but not a substitute—to the law’s notice requirements.
It is important to note that notice to the public and notice to a news medium are separate requirements. A governmental body is not required to pay for, and the news medium is not required to publish, notice provided to the news medium. However, if a governmental body seeks to provide notice to the public by paid publication in a news medium, the chief presiding officer must ensure that the notice is published.