City of Grand Forks, 041621 NDAGO, 2021-O-02

Docket NºAGO 2021-O-02
Case DateApril 16, 2021
CourtNorth Dakota
City of Grand Forks
AGO 2021-O-02
Letter Opinion 2021-O-02
North Dakota Attorney General Opinion
April 16, 2021
         ISSUED TO: City of Grand Forks          OPEN RECORDS AND MEETINGS OPINION          CITIZEN’S REQUEST FOR OPINION          This office received a request for an opinion under N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.1 from Korrie Wenzel asking whether the City of Grand Forks violated N.D.C.C. § 44-04-19 by holding a meeting without notice.          FACTS PRESENTED          Grand Forks City Council member, Bret Weber, requested that Mayor Brandon Bochenski put together an “expert panel” in order to have a locally focused panel of experts to provide their expertise and knowledge on COVID-19 pandemic related concerns. Weber suggested members to serve on the panel to the Mayor who sent a letter asking if the suggested people were willing to serve on the panel.[1]          Four meetings of the expert panel took place via Zoom. Notices of the meetings were not provided to the public. Although the other city council members were aware of the existence of the expert panel, only Weber and the Mayor knew when the panel would be meeting. The Mayor, Weber, and various city personnel attended some of the meetings.          The expert panel provided input to Mark Schill, a Grand Forks consultant; Debbie Swanson, Director of Grand Forks Health Department; Michael Dulitz, a Grand Forks Health Department employee; Todd Feland, Grand Forks City Administrator; Weber; and Mayor Bochenski. It also drafted a document entitled “The Grand Forks Mayor’s COVID-19 Expert Panel First Interim Report.” The report was discussed at the August 24, 2020, meeting of the Grand Forks Committee of the Whole.          ISSUE          Whether the expert panel is a governing body of a public entity and therefore subject to open meetings law.          ANALYSIS          A “meeting” is defined as a “formal or informal gathering or a work session . . . of [a] quorum of the members of the governing body of a public entity regarding public business.”2 A “governing body” includes any group...

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