For government is to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” it must be open to the people. It is this spirit of openness that inspired the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act. These two laws, known as Michigan’s “sunshine laws,” are designed to make government processes and information more open to the public.
The Open Meetings Act applies to governmental bodies, those “empowered by state constitution, statute, charter, ordinance, resolution or rule to exercise governmental authority.” Nearly all of the court decisions and Attorney General’s opinions addressing the Act have interpreted it liberally in favor of openness.
The intent of the OMA is to let the public know what is going on in their government. It applies to all public bodies and all deliberations and decisions must be made in public. Very few exceptions are in the law.
Social or chance gatherings, or conferences, which are not intended to avoid the OMA, are exempt. It is important for public bodies to be careful not to discuss government business during these gatherings. This can be accomplished by paying careful attention to what the OMA says about deliberations and decisions.
The Freedom of Information Act regulates and set requirements for disclosure of public records.