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Observer Corps Overview
Observer Corps Overview

OBSERVER CORPS – League of Women Voters of Moore County

Observing Our Local Government in Action

What is Observer Corps?

League Observers are the eyes and ears of the League. We send representatives to public board meetings and commissions in Moore County.  Observers learn how government works and about issues that are or may become items for local study and action. They advise the LWVMC Board of opportunities for action on League positions and periodically prepare short reports on what they observe. 

Consistent League presence at these Boards can add to the League's visibility and credibility and build relationships with local officials. League observing promotes transparent and responsive government for the community. ​ Observer Corps has long been an important tool of the League and is experiencing a resurgence across the country. 

What is the Purpose of Observer Corps?

o  Educating League members and the public about Moore County government Boards and issues that impact the community

o  Building relationships of trust and respect between the League and local governmental Boards

o  Promoting open, transparent, and accountable government

o  Alerting the local League to issues/concerns/affirmations and identifying areas where action or improvement is needed.

o  Raising visibility for the League

 

Moore County Boards to be Observed

·        Board of Commissioners https://www.moorecountync.gov/board-of-commissioners

·        Board of Education https://www.ncmcs.org/leadership/board_of_education

·        Board of Health https://www.moorecountync.gov/health;  

·        Board of Soil and Water Conservation https://www.moorecountync.gov/soil-and-water

·        Board of Elections https://www.moorecountync.gov/board-of-elections

Others could be added in the future

 

A brief description/purpose of that Board, its membership, meetings (time, date, place), and website will be included on our website under Observer Corps.

 

Coordinator(s) and Observers will make up the Observer Corps Team

 

Roles and Responsibilities - Observer Corps Team

Observer Corps Coordinator


  • Maintains current list of local governmental bodies with duties and meeting times; decides with the Board which bodies to observe.
  • Recruits and trains Observers; provides observers with copies of forms and Open Meeting Laws
  • Coordinates/assigns observers to local municipal Boards - and writes a letter of introduction to the Board Chair for each new Observer.
  • Collects observer reports and keeps them on file and keeps President or Executive Committee and Board informed 
  • Summarizes reports for the Newsletter and website
  • Alerts Executive Committee when report contains an item of League concern.
  • Holds periodic meetings of observers to exchange information, ideas, and concerns.

Observer Corp Members


  • Attend governmental meetings, wearing the Observer Corps button and remaining silent during the meeting.
  • Note what happens at the meeting, completing the report for the Observer Corps Coordinator who will report to the Board.
  • Learn about what the local government is doing, issues facing the community and suggest that the League take action, if warranted.
  • Build relationships with Boards and their staff, as possible, affirming their service to the public. 
  • Observe how issues are being addressed.  Ensure that the meetings are being conducted in an open and acceptable way; this is critical to the health of our democracy. Observer presence will keep elected and appointed officials on alert, as they know that someone is watching what decisions are being made and how they are being made.
  • Maintain a current file of the Board, including a list of Board members, a brief description of Board’s responsibilities, support staff, place and time of meetings, whether virtual or in-person and other info deemed important.
  • Attend periodic meetings of Observers to exchange information, ideas, and concerns

 

LWVUS Observer Corps Policy and Procedures Manual https://www.lwv.org/sites/default/files/2018-05/lwvef_observingyourgovernment.pdf   - excellent resource!

 

Reporting Form – paper or on-line (with Club Express) – simple, one-page document per meeting observed

 

Get involved – be an Observer Volunteer

           

From experienced to new League members, this is an opportunity for everyone -- an excellent opportunity to learn about local government and the League.  And to make a significant contribution.

Whom to contact to volunteer – on website

 

Guidelines for Observer Corps Volunteers

 

While attending a meeting, an Observer wears a LWV Observer Corps button.  An Observer attends the meeting on behalf of the LWVMC, not as a private citizen. As such, she/he is there to observe and not to speak or otherwise participate in the meeting. Anything said could be wrongly attributed to LWV by Board members, any media present, or others attending the meeting. When comment from the League is warranted, the League’s president will contact or write a letter to the Chair of the Board

 

For each meeting, the Observer completes and submits the one-page Observer's Report Form to the designated LWVMC Observer Corps Coordinator. Any notable issues will be brought to the attention of League leadership. Each Observer maintains her/his own file of agendas, meeting minutes, meeting materials, notes, Observer Reports, etc.

 

The Observer Corps is an opportunity to build trust and respect between government and the LWV. An Observer is an ambassador for LWV and as such, strives to be a good listener, discrete, and courteous. An effective Observer summarizes and interprets proceedings in a fair and concise manner.

 

Because relationships are established, it is requested that an Observer make at least a 6-month to year-long commitment, attending as many meetings as possible. If 2 volunteers share a Board, at least one should attend each meeting.

 

 

 

From Observer to Pioneer Policymaker

 

The late Harriett Woods, a two-time Democratic nominee for the United States Senate and a former Lieutenant Governor of the state of Missouri, credited the start of her political career to her role with the LWV of St. Louis Observer Corps. She was asked to monitor the University City Human Relations Commission. She was a dedicated observer and when a vacancy on the Commission occurred, Woods was appointed. She went on to run for local office and eventually became the first woman elected to statewide office in Missouri. She was a tireless advocate for women’s involvement in politics. “To Harriett Woods, we say Thank You for the legacy…it is priceless.”

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Report Form
Report Form
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Guidelines for Observers
Guidelines for Observers

Guidelines for Observers

League observers are an extension of the League into their community.  At meetings Observer Corps Members listen, learn, and report factual information.

 

Observers should:

 

BEFORE THE MEETING

Obtain background information and get familiar with who’s who on the Board

Know the function and jurisdiction of the Board being observed

Learn the names and titles of Board members

Know the names and functions of Board support staff who attend meetings

Verify the meeting date, time, and location or Zoom link.

Try to obtain an agenda ahead of time.  Arrange to be on email list to receive agenda or download one.

Be familiar with open government laws, often called “sunshine laws.” These are federal, state, and local laws that promote government transparency and accountability and give the public access to government meetings and government records (with some exceptions).

 

See “What Is Sunshine?” on page 1 of Observing Your Government in Action NC and NC Open Meetings Law

 

AT THE MEETING

Be respectfully on time

Display Your League Affiliation: • Wear a LWV Observer Corps pin where it can be clearly seen • If on Zoom, rename yourself in the Participants list by adding “LWVMC Observer” after your name. • Share in the Zoom Chat that you are simply observing, from the LWVMC Observer Corps.

Listen, observe (especially action items), and take notes. Screenshots of some presentation slides could be helpful.

Show an interest in local government and in issues being discussed

Watch for issues that would be of particular interest to the League

Observers do not participate or speak. They are representing a non-partisan organization. Observers are respectful, impartial, discrete, and courteous.

If there is an introduction of attendees or someone asks why you are there, please share your name and that you represent the League of Women Voters of Moore County, a non-partisan organization, and that you are there to observe and learn.

Refrain from pursuing a personal or partisan agenda or voicing an opinion on issues before, during, or after a meeting

Do not speak to reporters about League positions

 

AFTER THE MEETING

Summarize and “interpret” proceedings in a fair and accurate manner

Complete the Observer Corps Report Form.  If both volunteers attended the meeting, only one report form is needed.

Get the Report Form to the Observer Corps Coordinator: Mail it, deliver it, scan and attach the Report Form or your summary to an email. Peggy Crawford: peggycrawford@nc.rr.com   PO Box 583 West End, NC 27376

When we transition to Club Express, the report can be done on-line.

 

Reports and summaries will be archived with the completed Observer Corps Reports (Members Only). Some urgent issues may be posted on the Observer Corps webpage.

Effective Observers

Are discrete and courteous

Show an interest in local government and in issues being discussed

Summarize and “interpret” proceedings in a fair and accurate manner

Watch for issues that would be of particular interest to the League

Do not work on personal or partisan agenda as a League Observer

Do not speak to reporter about League positions or voice their own opinions on issues

 

Listening is a form of activism. Evaluate what is not said, as well as what is expressed.  Sometimes what is not said is also important.

 

Here are some items to look for

 How the meeting was conducted. Were there were any red flags about procedure, accountability and/or transparency as a public agency.

 Was the meeting announced in advance as required.

 Was the agenda available 24 hours in advance.

 Was the agenda followed.

 Did the meeting proceeded in a professional manner.

 Were agenda items discussed by Board members, or were decisions reached without discussion (this can happen when board members discuss items beforehand amongst themselves - not allowed by law [see Brown Act for

specifics] or discussion doesn’t take place because board members come

prepared to vote and don’t have additional questions)

 Were all action items posted online

 Was the meeting venue was accessible to the public.

Were there any issues observed with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?

 

 

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NC Open Meetings Laws
NC Open Meetings Laws
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Observing Your Government in Action
Observing Your Government in Action

This extensive and helpful document is the LWVUS Guide to Observer Corps.

(Sunshine Laws begin on page 7)

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Sample Introductory Letter to Boards
Sample Introductory Letter to Boards

File in MS Word format. Right-click and choose "Save link as..." for editable template.

Find Us:

Contact

League of Women Voters
of Moore County

PO Box 347
Southern Pines, NC  28388

Phone: 910-315-0004