Cedar County Ambulance Board Member Sue Rice insisted that CCAD Vice Chairman John Wilson was in error Monday, March 18, when he said the regular meeting was illegal because it violated the Missouri Sunshine Law concerning posting of the agenda. Then Saturday, March 23, Wilson again insisted that the meeting was illegally posted and he boycotted the meeting. Only Board Members Sue Rice and Don Fugate showed up for the meeting. Chairman Leroy Sousley missed for health reasons.
After the Saturday meeting was aborted, Dennis Winston, the only candidate for the District 3 seat in the election next Tuesday, argued with Rice that “everything about the meeting was illegal.”
Rice has now received information from the Attorney General’s office and from the board’s attorney, Frank Foster, stating that both meetings were legal.
Rice sent a letter to all local media outlets asking that her following letter be published to stop the rumors about illegal meetings:
I have verified with both Ms. Siegler of the Attorney General’s office and the District’s legal counsel that the Special Meeting called for last Saturday, March 23, 2013, was properly called and noticed. There was no reason for anyone to boycott the meeting and further delay taking actions on the agenda items.
Ms. Siegler confirmed she told John Wilson the notice for a Saturday meeting would need posted on Thursday BUT he did not tell her the ambulance barns operate 24/7. With that additional bit of information she confirmed posting the Notice at the Stockton barn on Friday did meet the statute requirements. She advised the Board’s legal counsel was the proper entity to contact in matters like this, not the AG office.
So I contacted the Board’s legal counsel and he concurred, in writing, the 3/23/13 meeting did not violate the Sunshine Law, as board member John Wilson and others believe.
In addition, the CCAD Regular Meeting on March 18 did not need to be shut down by acting chairman John Wilson over what he perceived as a Sunshine Law violation. The fact that just one of the Notices did not get posted was not grounds to cancel the entire meeting. The Sunshine Law specifically states an explanation must be recorded in the minutes as to why there was any variance from the regulations and the meeting go on.
So here we are a week later and the necessary Ambulance District business still has not been taken care of!
After writing the above letter, Rice received CCAD Attorney Frank Foster’s written response saying the meetings were legal and, in effect, objections by John Wilson and Dennis Winston were without merit:
On Monday and or Tuesday the notice of the Saturday March 23 meeting was posted in numerous public locations (the El Dorado Springs base, the courthouse etc. given to three newspaper, to three radio stations and CMH).
So 610.020.1 RSMo was complied with..lots of public notice occurred.
For some reason the posting at the Stockton base did not occur on these days and was not accomplished until Friday March 22, 2013.
A meeting was held on March 23, 2013, but was adjourned due to a lack of quorum. The meeting was at El Dorado Springs so no special notice for a meeting at the Stockton base was required.
1. Did the belated Notice at Stockton violate the 24 hour advance notice exclusive of weekend provision in 610.020.2 RSMo? No
First the meeting notice did not transverse a weekend but occurred ON a weekend day so I conclude that the 24 hour notice rule of 610.020.2 RSMo was met.
Second, the Stockton base is open 24 hours a day seven days a week. The Attorney General’s Office has ruled that the “weekend exception” provision in 610.020.2 RSMo does not apply to a 24 hour seven day a week operation.
The 48 hour rule in 7.B of the Bylaws for special meeting notices to the Directors was not complied with at least as to the Stockton base posting, but in all other respects in regards to the other notices and notices to the public the Sunshine Law was complied with.
The legal effect of bylaws remains an open question. Are they like a Home Rule Charter or are they a Guideline for procedures of a directory nature only and not mandatory.
Courts seem somewhat divided on this point but my view is that unless the Bylaws are incorporated by reference into an ordinance they are largely a directory guideline and without the full force weight and effect of law.
2. Does the doctrine of substantial compliance apply to this situation? Yes
It would appear due to the ample multiple notices given through multiple outlets and locations as described supra that both the letter and spirit of 610.020.1 and 2. RSMo were complied with.
The Bylaw 48 hour rule though not literally complied with is without legal effect as the Bylaws are a guideline and an ample notice within the statutory provision was made.
In contract law and regulation law there is a doctrine of substantial compliance. If a provision is substantially complied with but not complied with in each and every aspect, the actor still is with in substantial compliance with the contract or regulations. Therefore there is no violation.
I conclude (if I have the facts correct) that sections 610.020.1 RSMo and 610.020.2 RSMo were complied with and that the deviation from the Bylaw 48 hour rule in regards to the notice to the Directors as to the Stockton base posting is without any legal effect.
It would also appear that these issues are largely moot as the March 23, 2013, meeting had to be adjourned due to a lack of quorum.