Public Access Opinion 22-010

Discussing Specific Employee in Closed Session, Failing to Cite Applicable Exception Before Closing a Meeting, and Improper Closed Session Discussion of Bids

Open Meetings Act - OMA
Case: Public Access Opinion 22-010
Date: Tuesday, July 12, 2022

On April 11, 2022, Requestor submitted a Request for Review to the PAC seeking review of three closed sessions held during a special meeting of the Board of Education of Du Quoin Community Unit School District No. 300 (Board) on April 7, 2022. Requestor was concerned that a pending student transportation bid was improperly discussed during one of the closed sessions.

The PAC reviewed verbatim recordings of the Board’s three closed sessions and learned that the first and third closed sessions were entered under OMA Section 2(c)(1), which permits a public body to enter closed session to discuss “[t]he appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance, or dismissal of specific employees.” The PAC found the Board properly limited its first and third closed session discussions to this topic.

The Board’s second closed session was entered under OMA Section 2(c)(11), which permits a public body to enter closed session to discuss “[l]itigation, when an action against, affect or on behalf of the particular public body has been filed and is pending before a court or administrative tribunal, or when the public body finds that an action is probably or imminent, in which case the basis for the finding shall be recorded and entered into the minutes of the closed meeting.” The Board’s discussion during the second closed session, however, concerned what course of action to take in awarding a bid for a student transportation contract. None of the materials the Board submitted to the PAC indicated that the Board had a reasonable basis to believe litigation was likely and, even if such a basis had existed, the PAC found that the Board did not limit its discussion to strategies, posture, theories, and consequences of litigation.

As a result, the PAC held that the Board violated Section 2(a) of OMA by failing to publicly disclose and enter into the minutes an exception authorizing the second closed session of the April 7th meeting. The PAC ordered the Board to remedy this violation by disclosing to the Requestor and making publicly available the verbatim recording and minutes of its second closed session.

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