Public Access Opinion 20-004

Discussion of the Process for Evaluating an Employee in Closed Session

Open Meetings Act - OMA
Case: Public Access Opinion 20-004
Date: Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The South Loop Elementary School Local School Council (Council) violated the Open Meetings Act (OMA) during its meeting on February 12th, 2020 when it discussed the schedule and process for evaluating the school’s principal during a closed session.
The Requestor, a member of the Council, submitted a request for review to PAC on March 5th, 2020. Requestor alleged that the Council violated OMA by discussing the incorporation of surveys into the evaluation process during closed session. Requestor also stated that the scheduling of the evaluation was improperly discussed in closed session. Requestor raised her objection during the meeting, but another member of the Council insisted that it was fine to discuss these subjects during the closed session because they pertained to the evaluation.
Section 2(a) of OMA states that all meetings held by public bodies must be open to the public unless it covers certain subjects listed in Section 2(c). Specifically, Section 2(c)(1) of OMA allows public bodies to enter closed session when discussing “[t]he appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance, or dismissal of specific employees, * * * or legal counsel or the public body[.]"  
The PAC held that Section 2(c)(1) “applies to discussions concerning specific employees. This exception does not permit a public body to discuss in closed session considerations applicable to categories of employees, such as the process for evaluating their performance.” For this reason, the PAC found that the Council violated Section 2(a) of OMA when it discussed the process and scheduling of the school principal’s evaluation in closed session. The Council was directed by the PAC to make the unauthorized sections of the closed session meeting available to the public.
This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law.