Open meetings law

Asked November 3, 2020, 4:26 PM EST

Does the same “Open meetings law” apply to Boards of County Commissioners as it does City Councils? What are the conditions that a “Closed Meeting” can be called?

Iosco County Michigan

1 Response

Hello,

Thanks for this interesting question! The Open Meetings Act (OMA) applies to all public bodies that are engaged in making decisions. A public body can be an elected body- such as a City Council or County Board of Commissioners. Importantly, it can be other appointed bodies that make decisions such as a sub-committee that reports to the board, a planning commission, or commission on aging.

The Open Meetings Act is fairly straightforward, but there are some nuances. I highly recommend that you refer to the Open Meetings Act Handbook for further reading. Most, if not all of your answers will be found here and it is a relatively simple document to navigate. The section on closed sessions is from Page 10-12.

From the Handbook (page 10)

“Meeting in closed session – a public body may meet in a closed session only for one or more of the permitted purposes specified in section 8 of the OMA. The limited purposes for which closed sessions are permitted include, among others:

(1) To consider the dismissal, suspension, or disciplining of, or to hear complaints or charges brought against, or to consider a periodic personnel evaluation of, a public officer, employee, staff member, or individual agent, if the named person requests a closed hearing.

(2) For strategy and negotiation sessions connected with the negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement if either negotiating party requests a closed hearing.

(3) To consider the purchase or lease of real property up to the time an option to purchase or lease that real property is obtained.

(4) To consult with its attorney regarding trial or settlement strategy in connection with specific pending litigation, but only if an open meeting would have a detrimental financial effect on the litigating or settlement position of the public body.

(5) To review and consider the contents of an application for employment or appointment to a public office if the candidate requests that the application remain confidential. However, all interviews by a public body for employment or appointment to a public office shall be held in an open meeting pursuant to this act.

(6) To consider material exempt from discussion or disclosure by state or federal statute. But note – a board is not permitted to go into closed session to discuss an attorney's oral opinion, as opposed to a written legal memorandum.”

There are specific requirements for going into a closed session, leaving a closed session, and deliberating in closed session but making the decision in an open meeting. I encourage you to read those sections of the OMA Handbook as well.

Thanks for your question,

Mary Reilly, AICP