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Public Access Opinion 14-010

Sufficiently informing the public of the nature of the business being conducted before taking final action

Administrator Contracts
Case: Public Access Opinion 14-010
Date: Monday, September 8, 2014

A public body approved a separation agreement with its former superintendent. Initially, the vote occurred in closed session (which the PAC found to be a violation of OMA in PAO 13-007). Later, the public body attempted to rectify the situation. It posted proper notice and an agenda with an action item to vote on the separation agreement in open session. The public body voted in open session on the separation agreement, which is now the subject of this opinion. The PAC concluded that the public body did not properly “recite the nature of its action” and “inform the public of the business being conducted,” despite the fact that it informed the public that the separation agreement was available as a viewable attachment to the agenda item for the open meeting. The PAC found this practice insufficient, stating:

1. Posting the separation agreement on the website together with the meeting agenda item only satisfies the “notice and posting” requirement of OMA; it does not satisfy the duty to publicly recite the nature of the action.

2. Before a public body may take final action, it must meet two additional requirements:

a. Publicly recite the nature of its action; and

b. Provide a “verbal explanation of the significance of its action to members of the public who are present at the meeting before it can proceed to consider taking action.” This explanation should provide information from which the public might understand the purpose and effect of the public body’s action.

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