NEFAC Trains Burlington City Council on Open Meeting Law Following Complaint

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |

The New England First Amendment Coalition recently trained the Burlington (Vt.) City Council on the state’s Open Meeting Law, emphasizing the need for transparency within municipal government.

“What we always encourage — whether it’s a question under the Open Meeting Law or the Public Records Act — is in case of doubt, always err on the side of more openness, more accountability, more transparency,” said NEFAC’s Lia Ernst, who also represented the ALCU of Vermont. “These two laws are absolutely critical to the functioning of our democracy.”

Ernst was joined in the Oct. 6 training session by NEFAC’s Michael Donoghue who also serves as executive director of the Vermont Press Association.

The session followed a complaint filed by Seven Days last month that councilors violated the Open Meeting Law by inviting protest organizers into an executive session to discuss police personnel. Councilors later acknowledged that they violated the law and agreed to additional training on complying with the law.

MICHAEL DONOGHUE | Donoghue is an award-winning news and sports writer. He worked for more than 40 years at the Burlington Free Press and now is a freelancer. Donoghue served as an adjunct professor and adviser for three decades in the Journalism Department at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt.

LIA ERNST | Ernst is a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont, where she litigates civil liberties, civil rights, and open government cases; advocates before state and municipal governmental bodies on ACLU legislative priorities; and educates community groups on protecting their rights.

NEFAC regularly provides training programs on the First Amendment and the public’s right to know about government. Public services available include:

State and Municipal Open Meeting and Public Records Law Training
Workshops and Seminars on Freedom of Information Laws for General Public
Investigative Journalism Programs for Professional and Student Newsrooms
First Amendment and Civics Education for All Grade Levels
Remote and In-Person Speakers and Programming Available

To schedule a speaker or program, email NEFAC Executive Director Justin Silverman at

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

Major Supporters of NEFAC include Hearst Connecticut Media Group, Paul and Ann Sagan, The Boston Globe, WBUR, Boston University and the Robertson Foundation.