Effective League activity in a community relies on an understanding of how local government works. A League Observer is the eyes and ears of the League.
The Open Meeting Law ensures
the right of all citizens to have advance notice of and to attend all meeting of public bodies at which any business affecting the public is discussed or acted upon, with certain limited exceptions to protect the public interest and preserve personal privacy.
Consistent with this purpose, the general requirement of the law is that
“all meetings of public bodies shall be open to the public at all times.”
As an Observer, you are exercising that recognized right to be present at any public meeting.
An Observer Corps is one way the League promotes government transparency and accountability. LWVF Observer Corps members attend government meetings and report on any issues that might concern the League. Observers attend meetings to learn about their community, to ensure that government meetings are conducted in the open, and to encourage the accountability of public officials. Observer Corps members do not speak on behalf of the League without prior authorization.
In Falmouth, there are many boards and committees available for an Observer Corps member. There is a very good chance that one of the public bodies may be of particular interest to you. Due diligence on the new Observer’s part is to become familiar with the Mission Statement, member names and positions, meeting times and frequency, and other factors which will make Observer Corps membership a positive experience for you.
The Observer Corps Chair periodically meets with Observers as a group to conduct a training program and discuss items of interest concerning League positions and the Open Meeting Law.
Formal literature concerning the Open Meeting Law is located on the MA Attorney General’s website. We also have a you tube video, as does the Commonwealth AG.
Guidelines concerning best practices and other items of importance from LWV US is available online in the Resource Guide “Observing Your Government in Action”.
League members observing government meetings as part of the League of Women Voters of Falmouth Observer Corps should follow these guidelines:
Observer Corps Guidelines
- Take a copy of the meeting agenda with you to the meeting. (Agendas are usually available online.)
- Take your membership handbook with you. It has the most current printed LWV national, state and local positions. It also has listed our representatives’ information.
- Wear your League pin and/or name badge. It is important that the League’s presence be visible.
- When attending your first meeting, introduce yourself to the Board Chair and hand them the introductory letter provided by the Chair of Observer Corps.
- Observe the meeting's processes and decisions. Note any concerns regarding issues of potential interest to the League or the manner in which the meeting is conducted.
- Be polite and respectful. Avoid verbal and nonverbal behavior that could be perceived as distracting, disruptive, or disapproving.
- If asked about your reason for attending, simply indicate that you are observing the meeting on behalf of LWV of Falmouth to learn about your local government and ensure that open meeting policies are honored.
- When given the opportunity, cultivate a positive relationship with public officials and staff.
- Do not speak publicly at the meeting without advance authorization from LWVF Board of Directors.
- Do not make any partisan statements, engage in partisan discussions, or participate in partisan activities while serving as a League observer at a meeting.
- Complete your meeting notes and retain for your summary report or if you wish, you may send a copy to the Chair of the Observer Corps. Any procedural questions should be brought to the Observer Corps Chair who will immediately relay questions to the League Action Committee. The date, name of Board, members present, absent, late, summary of discussion, votes taken etc. are important for recognition purposes. Reports should be factual; personal opinions about committee members or committee procedures should be clearly identified as such.
- No later than one week before your annual oral report, on the League calendar at this time February and June, send an advance copy to the Chair of Observers who will relay it to the Steering Committee. These oral reports by observers at our meetings help members understand local government. Members also have the opportunity to ask questions.
- Your report will be published in the League Bulletin, the League website, and if space is available, the Enterprise. Please hand a hard copy of the report to the Chair of the Committee/Board you are observing at the next meeting you attend after presentation.