Beaufort hosts presentation on open meetings, FOIA laws

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Members of Beaufort’s various boards, committees and commissions learned the ins and outs of South Carolina’s open meetings law and the Freedom of Information Act during a presentation last Wednesday, March 19 at City Hall.

Bill Taylor, field services manager for the Municipal Association of South Carolina, led the meeting. His experience includes more than 33 years of local government work throughout South Carolina, including serving as the town manager in Cheraw, community development and assistant city administrator in Lancaster, and economic development director for the Upper Savannah Council of Governments.

Wednesday’s discussion came after there appeared to be some confusion about what constituted an “open meeting” during a city-appointed board meeting this winter.

“We quickly realized we hadn’t done as much as we probably should have about informing these volunteer committee and commission members about how to conduct a meeting, what the rules are, and how to be sure we are always in compliance with the law,” Beaufort City Manager Scott Dadson said.

“Through our relationship with the Municipal Association of South Carolina, we worked out this briefing,” he said. “We strongly urged all members of our city-appointed boards, committees and commissions to attend and participate, and City Council members were invited too.”

In addition to his three decades of public sector work, Taylor has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Clemson University and a Master’s in public administration from the University of Georgia.

The presentation included:

• What types of meetings are covered under South Carolina’s laws

• How to conduct a meeting and what types of minutes, agenda and prior notice are required

• Conflicts of interest

• Freedom of Information Act details including executive sessions, what documents are considered public and how to respond to FOIA requests.

About 20 people attended the workshop last Wednesday afternoon.