Montana State University

Handy guide for citizens and elected officials is a hit

November 6, 2008


Paul Lachapelle, MSU Extension community development specialist, MSU photo by Leslie McDaniel.   High-Res Available

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
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Over the past year, a guidebook for citizens and those serving on public boards and committees has been one of the 10 most-requested publications produced by Montana State University Extension.

The publication, "Serving on County Boards, Districts, Commissions and Committees: A Handbook for Members, Local Government Officials and Citizens" has had multiple printings and recently is a part of the material that received the "Educational Package Award" from the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals. The 45-page resource was developed by Paul Lachapelle, MSU Extension community development specialist.

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 publication is used by organizations to educate their members," Lachapelle said.

Montana groups using the publication have included the Midwest Assistance Program in Billings in their training of sewer and water district board members across Montana, by the Park County attorney in county board training, and by the Granite County Commissioners, who include the publication in the information given to all new board members. Lachapelle also provides training workshops in which this and the companion publications "Setting Group Goals" and "Planning Meeting Agendas" are used.

In questionnaires completed several months after citizen board trainings done by Lachapelle, 94 percent of respondents said the materials have given them a better understanding of Montana's open meetings law, and over 70 percent said they feel more comfortable participating in board meetings as a result of citizen board trainings conducted by Lachapelle.

"What was most surprising about the post-class evaluation is that more than half of respondents said they had 10 or more years of board experience, and still learned something new about Montana statutes or running their meetings more efficiently."

Lachapelle said there are many hundreds of public boards, districts, commissions and committees, functioning across Montana. He has conducted workshops for over 1,000 citizens and elected officials in the past 10 months.

The publication is available in both printed and electronic forms for a small fee. Contact either your local MSU Extension office or the MSU Extension Publications Distribution Center (406)994-3273 or orderpubs@montana.edu.

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Sound bites
1) Lachapelle says it's important for people to get involved in local government (:16)
http://www.msuextension.org/msunews/Soundbites/Paul3.mp3

2) Lachapelle says the sheer number of local government officials in Montana keeps the guide in high demand ( :24) http://www.msuextension.org/msunews/Soundbites/Paul2.mp3

3) MSU Extension Community Development Specialist Paul Lachapelle (La-sha-pell) says evaluations indicate the guide is helpful even for highly experienced board members (:18)
http://www.msuextension.org/msunews/Soundbites/Paul1.mp3

More information about Paul Lachapelle can be found on his web site:
http://www.montana.edu/wwwlgc/about/staff/paul/index.html

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