Public Library Board Private “Meet and Greet” Gathering Violated OMA
On December 21, 2022, a Trustee submitted a Request for Review to the Public Access Bureau alleging that the Board of Trustees for the Stickney-Forest View Public Library (Board) violated the Open Meetings Act (OMA) by holding a gathering in which library issues were discussed without adhering to the advance notice requirements of OMA.
The gathering in question was a “meet and greet” hosted by the Board President on November 28, 2022. The gathering was listed as an informal gathering where library staff and trustees could meet, get to know each other, and ask questions or state any concerns the staff had. Participants could engage in person or via Zoom.
Three members of the Board were physically present at the “meet and greet.” At the meeting, staff members asked board members substantive questions regarding library operations and Board practices.
Section 1.02 of OMA defines a “meeting” as “any gathering of a majority of a quorum of the members of a public body held for the purpose of discussing public business[.]” The full Board consists of seven members. Accordingly, four Board members constitute a quorum and three members are a majority of the quorum.
During the November 28, 2022 gathering, the three board members engaged in an interactive discussion with Library District staff about matters of public business upon which the Board may take action in the future. Because discussions of public business for the purpose of collecting information are the collective inquiry of the deliberative process, the November 28, 2022, gathering constituted a “meeting” subject to the requirements of OMA.
The Public Access Counselor (PAC) concluded that the Board violated OMA by holding a meeting on November 28, 2022, without providing advance public notice or complying with the other requirements of OMA. The PAC directed the Board to make the video recording of its November 28, 2022 gathering publicly available and to generate and approve written minutes for the meeting. The PAC further directed the Board to ensure that future gatherings in which three or more of its members engage in deliberative discussions of public business are held in full compliance with the requirements of OMA.
This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law.
Mary H. Bandstra, IASB Law Clerk