If the trustees of a district appoint a board or committee of community members to serve in a strictly advisory capacity, may the committee be compensated, and is the committee subject to the Open Meetings Act and Public Records Act?

A A local school board has plenary authority with regard to school district matters so long as the exercise of such authority is not inconsistent with the Mississippi Constitution or the Mississippi Code. There is no statute that speaks to payment of this kind to members of an advisory committee established by a school district or one that prohibits the payment you describe. Thus, the school board has broad authority to make a payment in the form of a stipend or per diem to a member serving on an advisory committee appointed by the school board. The value of the services received by the school board must be reasonable in relation to the amount of money paid to the members of the committee. Section 25-41-3(a) includes committees of policymaking boards as public bodies. The fact that the committee’s powers are advisory dies not remove the committee from the scope of the Open Meetings Act. Since the committee is subject to the Open Meetings Act, the committee would be subject to 25-41-11 which requires minutes be kept of all meetings. A request for records of the advisory committee may be processed or handled by the advisory committee on behalf of the district, but the ultimate responsibility for maintaining records and complying with the Public Records Act lies with district. (Attorney General’s Opinion to Hemphill, February 10, 2017)