Sustained Outrage

Secret meetings, Feb. 17, 2012

Today’s issue of The State Register is an interesting one … Two meetings violated the public notice requirements of the West Virginia open meetings law, and both were meetings of the Commerce Department’s Mine Safety Technology Task Force.

Now, in addition to that, there’s a little issue with the meeting notice for the state Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety, which is scheduled to meet on Thursday to receive a report on the Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training’s report on the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster. The problem is that the official notice in the Register doesn’t include the location of the meeting, and of course West Virginia law requires meeting notices to include the date, time, place and agenda of all meetings. Now, the newer “online” meeting notice for the board includes the time and place — 5 p.m. at the Beckley Convention Center — but it’s the printed version of the Register that is required for legal compliance. Interestingly, the state ran into a similar problem with an improper meeting notice (subscription required) when it was preparing to release its investigation report on the Aracoma Mine fire back in 2006.

(Not for nothing — but why is the mine safety board having such an important meeting at 5 p.m., when they are likely to not get much media coverage, given evening news and morning newspaper deadlines? Good question … I understand that the OMHST is doing a press conference earlier in the day. But the board discussion could be newsworthy as well, and the 5 p.m. meeting time makes it unlikely many reporters will be able to attend.)

As we’ve reminded folks before, the West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act requires agencies to send meeting notices to the Secretary of State in time for notices to appear in the State Register five days prior to a scheduled meeting. Every week, we list the agencies that didn’t comply, thanks to the Secretary of State’s office, which kindly marks those agencies with an asterisk in the list of meetings published each Friday in the Register.