Public Access Opinion 17-013

Closed Session Discussion of the Conduct of a Board Member

Open Meetings Act - OMA
Case: Public Access Opinion 17-013
Date: Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Board of Trustees of a village (Board) violated OMA by improperly using Section 2(c)(4) to enter closed session to discuss the conduct of one of its Board members.

Here, the Board member whose conduct was at issue had made racist comments during a May 2017 Board meeting. In response, the agenda for the Board’s August 8, 2017 meeting identified a resolution concerning the Board member’s comments as an item for discussion, however the Board entered closed session for the discussion and cited Section 2(c)(4) of OMA to do so. Section 2(c)(4) allows a public body to enter closed session to discuss “evidence or testimony presented in open hearing, or in a closed hearing where specifically authorized by law, to a quasi-adjudicative body.” Under OMA, a “quasi-adjudicative body” is “an administrative body charged by law or ordinance with the responsibility to conduct hearings, receive evidence or testimony and make determinations based thereon, but does not include local electoral boards when such bodies are considering petition challenges.”

Upon reviewing the closed session verbatim recording of the August meeting, the PAC found that the Board did not consider evidence or testimony – they just discussed a resolution regarding the Board member’s comments. Even if the Board had considered evidence or testimony, they would have done so as a legislative body, so Section 2(c)(4) could not apply.

Because the Board improperly entered closed session to discuss the conduct of one of its members, the PAC ordered the Board to publicly disclose the portion of the closed session verbatim recording containing this discussion.

This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law.