County Council’s Practice of Amending Agenda During Regularly Scheduled Meetings Not a Violation of the Freedom of Information Act
In Lambries v. Saluda County Council, the Supreme Court of South Carolina held that a County Council’s practice of amending the agenda of regularly scheduled meetings during those meetings did not violate the notice requirements under § 30-4-80 of the Freedom of Information Act.
The Saluda County Council amended its agenda during a regularly scheduled meeting to take up a resolution that the public had not been previously informed of, and unanimously passed the resolution during the meeting. Lambries sued for injunctive relief in the Circuit Court of Saluda County to prevent the County Council from amending its agenda during regularly scheduled meetings.
The Circuit Court denied Lambries’ request for injunctive relief; holding that S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-80 (2007) only requires an agenda for “called, special, or rescheduled meetings,” and not for “regularly scheduled meetings.” The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that “(1) an agenda is required for regularly scheduled meetings, and (2) [the] County Council’s amendment of an agenda less than twenty-four hours before the meeting violated the ‘spirit’ and ‘purpose’ of FOIA’s notice requirement.”
The Supreme Court sided with the Circuit Court, stating that “nowhere in FOIA is there a statement that an agenda is required for regularly scheduled meetings…we believe the legislative intent evidenced in the use of the phrase ‘if any’ is that the issuance of an agenda for regularly scheduled meetings lies within the discretion of County Counsel.” The Court continued: “[i]f the General Assembly wanted to require an agenda for regularly scheduled meetings, it could have done so with the simple use of the word “shall,” which generally signals a command.”
Thus, the Supreme Court held that the Freedom of Information Act does not contain a prohibition against amending an agenda for a regularly scheduled County Council meeting.