Public Access Opinion 18-012

Improper Closed Session Discussion of Budget and Layoffs

Open Meetings Act - OMA
Case: Public Access Opinion 18-012
Date: Tuesday, October 2, 2018

A public university (University) violated Section 2(a) of OMA by improperly discussing its budget, layoffs, and related matters in closed session during its June 28, 2018 meeting. The Request for Review alleged that the closed session discussion did not discuss specific employees – which is permitted by Section 2(c)(1) of OMA – but instead improperly discussed layoffs in general and/or whole classes of employees.

Reviewing the verbatim recording of the closed session, the PAC discovered that the University briefly discussed one particular employee but spent the “overwhelming majority” of the closed session discussing budgetary matters and considerations applicable to categories of employees, not the merits or conduct of individual employees. Not only does OMA prohibit such general discussions during closed session, but the PAC pointed to one of its 2015 opinions where it found that “a discussion of eliminating a position itself which does not consider the performance of the employee or whether a particular employee should occupy the position, is not within the scope of the section 2(c)(1) exception.” PAC 15-7. Accordingly, the PAC held that the University violated Section 2(a) of OMA by discussing in closed session matters outside the scope of the Section 2(c)(1) exception. The PAC ordered the University to make public a copy of the both the closed session minutes for and verbatim recording of the closed session portion of the June meeting.

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