IV. The Open Meetings Act
The OMA is strong on paper but too often fails to deliver what is promised. There are gaps in the law’s application and shortcomings in its enforcement. We recommend that the new mayor submit legislation to the D.C. Council including the following provisions to improve implementation and transparency, and we further recommend that the Council engage in vigorous oversight of public bodies’ compliance with the law.
- Require ANCs and committees of public bodies to comply with the OMA: Include Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) among public bodies covered by the OMA and consider whether to require compliance by committees and special task forces of covered bodies. See below at 17.
- Provide a private right of action: This will allow D.C. residents to challenge OMA violations in Superior Court to augment the OOG’s enforcement power. See below at 17.
- Codify the OOG’s authority and procedures for adjudicating complaints that public bodies violated the OMA. See below at 17.
- Explicitly permit recording of public body proceedings: Individuals present should be allowed to make video and/or audio recordings of all meetings. See below at 18.
Additional steps to strengthen Open Meetings Act compliance
In addition to legislation to strengthen the OMA, the new mayor should work with leaders of public bodies, Councilmembers and the community to develop resources and procedures that improve implementation of open meetings provisions. This includes harnessing technology to facilitate transparency and participation.
- Meeting records: All public records related to open meetings, such as meeting notices, agendas, minutes, transcripts, votes taken and submitted materials should be posted online in human- and machine-readable formats where the public can easily access them. See below at 18.
- Streaming: The mayor should provide funding and technical resources to livestream/webcast meetings of boards and commission to facilitate real-time public participation in government and searching archived meeting records.
- ANC portal: Launch a single portal for ANC documents, such as minutes, votes and financial reports, to help citizens engage with the ANC system and help ANC commissioners reach their constituents.
- Unified calendar: Publish a single, unified calendar for public government meetings and events.