§314. Penalty and enforcement

Link to law: http://legislature.vermont.gov/statutes/section/01/005/00314
Published: 2015

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Title

01

:
General Provisions






Chapter

005

:
COMMON LAW; GENERAL RIGHTS






Subchapter

002
:
PUBLIC INFORMATION










 

§

314. Penalty and enforcement

(a) A person who

is a member of a public body and who knowingly and intentionally violates the

provisions of this subchapter, a person who knowingly and intentionally

violates the provisions of this subchapter on behalf or at the behest of a

public body, or a person who knowingly and intentionally participates in the

wrongful exclusion of any person or persons from any meeting for which

provision is herein made, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be fined

not more than $500.00.

(b)(1) Prior to

instituting an action under subsection (c) of this section, the Attorney

General or any person aggrieved by a violation of the provisions of this

subchapter shall provide the public body written notice that alleges a specific

violation of this subchapter and requests a specific cure of such violation.

The public body will not be liable for attorney's fees and litigation costs

under subsection (d) of this section if it cures in fact a violation of this

subchapter in accordance with the requirements of this subsection.

(2) Upon receipt

of the written notice of alleged violation, the public body shall respond

publicly to the alleged violation within seven business days by:

(A)

acknowledging the violation of this subchapter and stating an intent to cure

the violation within 14 calendar days; or

(B) stating that

the public body has determined that no violation has occurred and that no cure

is necessary.

(3) Failure of a

public body to respond to a written notice of alleged violation within seven

business days shall be treated as a denial of the violation for purposes of

enforcement of the requirements of this subchapter.

(4) Within 14

calendar days after a public body acknowledges a violation under subdivision

(2)(A) of this subsection, the public body shall cure the violation at an open

meeting by:

(A) either

ratifying, or declaring as void, any action taken at or resulting from a

meeting in violation of this subchapter; and

(B) adopting

specific measures that actually prevent future violations.

(c) Following an

acknowledgment or denial of a violation and, if applicable, following

expiration of the 14-calendar-day cure period for public bodies acknowledging a

violation, the Attorney General or any person aggrieved by a violation of the

provisions of this subchapter may bring an action in the Civil Division of the

Superior Court in the county in which the violation has taken place for

appropriate injunctive relief or for a declaratory judgment. An action may be

brought under this section no later than one year after the meeting at which

the alleged violation occurred or to which the alleged violation relates.

Except as to cases the Court considers of greater importance, proceedings

before the Civil Division of the Superior Court, as authorized by this section

and appeals therefrom, take precedence on the docket over all cases and shall

be assigned for hearing and trial or for argument at the earliest practicable

date and expedited in every way.

(d) The Court

shall assess against a public body found to have violated the requirements of

this subchapter reasonable attorney's fees and other litigation costs

reasonably incurred in any case under this subchapter in which the complainant

has substantially prevailed, unless the Court finds that:

(1)(A) the

public body had a reasonable basis in fact and law for its position; and

(B) the public

body acted in good faith. In determining whether a public body acted in good

faith, the Court shall consider, among other factors, whether the public body

responded to a notice of an alleged violation of this subchapter in a timely

manner under subsection (b) of this section; or

(2) the public

body cured the violation in accordance with subsection (b) of this section.

(Amended 1979, No. 151 (Adj. Sess.), § 4, eff. April 24, 1980; 1987, No. 256

(Adj. Sess.), § 5; 2013, No. 143 (Adj. Sess.), § 4.)
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