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Staying in step with the law

KAREN WOODMANSEE
Appeal staff writer

In trying to avoid potential violations of the state Open Meeting Law, Lyon County officials are planning training meetings for advisory council members.

Maureen Williss, liaison to the county’s seven town advisory boards, will lead the training, set for 6:30 p.m. June 18 at the Stagecoach Community Center. Another class will be on June 21 at the Lyon County Administrative Complex in Yerington, one of Lyon County’s few incorporated cities.

Williss will be joined by George Taylor, open meeting investigator for the state Attorney General’s Office, to help new advisory board members to avoid any pitfalls or violations of the state’s open meeting law.

The public is welcome to attend, so they can see how advisory boards work and how the open-meeting law works.

While most towns in Lyon aren’t incorporated, they engage in practices similar to incorporated towns, which makes them subject to the open meeting law.

“Because most people are appointed by the (Lyon County) commissioners and they fall under the open meeting law,” Williss said. “It’s important they understand the open meeting law.”

She said she sill instruct the new board members on preparing agendas, what constitutes a quorum, and serial communication among members, which could be an open meeting law violation.

She said the sessions clear up some questions by both board members and citizens, such as when a majority of board members may get together in a social setting without constituting a violation of the law. They can, so long as they don’t discuss business.

Williss said if the state Attorney General’s Office gets a complaint on an advisory board it will investigate, and 99 percent of the time, the board made a mistake. Technically, she said, a deliberate violation can bring about criminal charges and fines, but that isn’t likely.

“George Taylor has said in his time he didn’t recall any fines or charges,” she said. “I’ve never seen a blatant, ‘I’m doing this regardless of what you say’ situation,” Williss said.

Unincorporated Lyon County towns with advisory boards

Dayton

Mound House

Silver City

Silver Springs

Stagecoach

Mason Valley

Smith Valley