Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Dorchester County Council decided to impose limits Monday on amending meeting agendas with no prior notice.
The action comes in the wake of a recent S.C. Supreme Court ruling that public bodies do not have to give public notice before changing meeting agendas — a move that has raised concerns over open government.
Councilman David Chinnis made a motion in council chambers to change the rules regarding agendas. New language would allow the Council to amend agendas during a meeting only if the motion to make a change is approved by a two-thirds majority.
“The Supreme Court has said we could amend the agenda,” Chinnis said. “What I would like to do is limit this by requiring a super majority, a two-thirds vote before we make an amendment,” Chinnis said.
Councilman Larry Hargett said he agreed with the motion but questioned the placement of the language.
“The way I read it, the section you are amending refers to amendments made by the public, not by members of council,” Hargett said. “So is this the appropriate placement of the language?”
Chinnis said he received guidance on his motion from County Attorney John Frampton. Frampton told Council he was comfortable with the motion, but said the body could create a separate section within the rules if it chose to do so.
The recent ruling has caused great concern as to how it might effect Freedom of Information laws and the public’s right to know, said Bill Rogers of the S.C. Press Association earlier Monday.
Rogers said that the Anderson County Council recently passed a resolution basically stating that it would not amend its agendas without prior notice. The Municipal Association of South Carolina is also advising its members to take similar action, Rogers said.
“It would be ideal if they all decided to do this,” he said. “But they are currently not required to do so.”
Council passed the motion 6-0, with all members present voting in favor. Councilman Jay Byars was absent.