CARPENDALE -- “I have a soft spot in my heart for municipalities,” said Carpendale attorney Jason Sites as he recently met with the council and residents.

By Ronda Wertman
Tribune Correspondent
CARPENDALE -- “I have a soft spot in my heart for municipalities,” said Carpendale attorney Jason Sites as he recently met with the council and residents.
Sites was on hand to provide a refresher for the community on the West Virginia Opens Meeting Act.
In a society where everyone and everything is questioned, Sites told those assembled, “You just want to do it right. You have to follow the act to the black letter of the law.
“Meetings cannot be private,” he said as he walked participants through the process from giving notice to keeping minutes.
Notice must be posted five days prior to the meeting in a public place. Carpendale posts its notice at the town hall.
The agenda must list what will be discussed and topics must be on the agenda for the council to take action.
He explained that items not on the agenda can be discussed and this not a violation, but a decision where a vote was taken is in violation, if it wasn’t on the agenda.
A special meeting, when needed, requires three days notice and must include the reason for the special meeting. In an emergency, the three and five days notice are not required, but a notice must be posted and it must state what the emergency is.
Sites noted that when a quorum or three members of the council are present it is a meeting.
“Don’t have any discussion with three present that will lead to a decision, a vote,” he cautioned, noting that simple rules to follow are to “have an agenda and don’t discuss anything out of shop.”
In the case of an executive session, it must be during an open meeting. An elected official must make the motion and there must be a vote to go into executive session. There must also be a vote to go out of the executive session. If the council is going to take action on discussion from the executive session, the motion and vote must be taken once the open meeting resumes.
Reasons permitted for an executive session include such things as personnel matters and legal issues.
“Minutes are not real until they approved,” said Sites, noting that following the meeting the minutes are completed, but they are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act until they are approved by the council, usually at the next regular meeting.
He also explained that the minutes should include topics that were discussed and decisions that were made, but that not everyone who spoke is required to be in the minutes as had been previously suggested by some residents.
Following a meeting this fall where mayor Casey Lambert adjourned a meeting due to foul language, Sites told the council that a person or persons disrupting the meeting can be removed, if the ability to conduct the meeting is being compromised.
In conclusion, Sites informed the council, “The ethics commission will provide an advisory opinion if you have a question as a free service. You should use it if you have any concerns.”