Montana State University

New publication will support citizens serving on boards and committees

November 30, 2007

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A new publication is intended to help citizens who serve on boards and committees.

"Serving on County Boards, Districts, Commissions and Committees in Montana: A Handbook for Members, Local Government Officials and Citizens" is a 45-page resource for people supervising, serving on or interested in public boards across the state.

Authored by Paul Lachapelle, Montana State University Extension community development specialist, and Mary Anne Anderson, MSU Extension agent in Park County, the handbook was produced by MSU's Local Government Center as well as Extension.

Among the topics covered in the handbook are Montana's open meetings law, code of ethics, board liability, information on wrongful discharge, discrimination, and use of Robert's Rules of Order and motions. The handbook also provides details on the creation, purpose, membership requirements, authorizing language and funding information for 43 distinct boards, committees, commissions and districts in Montana. It refers to the Montana Code Annotated so that readers can obtain more detailed information about legislative statutes or Justice Department opinions.

While the handbook is written specifically for county-level public boards in Montana, those who serve on municipal, state or even private boards should find the information useful, said Lachapelle.

"Since beginning this project, I have been surprised at how much conflict, bad press and potential for litigation there is across the state because boards failed to follow basic legal requirements, mostly from a lack of knowledge and not deliberate neglect," he said.

The handbook addresses not only legal requirements, but also provides suggestions on how best to run a meeting to encourage public input.

The publication costs $8 and includes a downloadable Acrobat file through a password-protected web address provided in the document. The Acrobat "PDF" file alone is available for $4. It contains links to quickly access additional information on statutes, organizations and government agencies. The printed copy and digital file can both be ordered from the MSU Extension Distribution Center, either by calling (406) 994-3273 or by emailing orderpubs@montana.edu.

In addition, Lachapelle will schedule workshops on this information.

Contact: Paul Lachapelle (406) 994-3620 or paul.lachapelle@montana.edu