Actions Permitted Only In Open Session/Voting

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-02-18

A motion to convene a closed meeting must identify the subject of the meeting, the purpose of the meeting, and the exemption(s) which allow the meeting to be closed. A motion that fails to identify the subject, or lacks any other element, is insufficient. There is no general exemption for public bodies to discuss police investigations in closed meetings. Votes are required to be taken at open meetings; decisions made in closed meetings are not effective until a vote is taken at an open meeting.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-02-17

FOIA prohibits voting at public meetings by secret or written ballot as well as voting by telephone or other electronic communication means. However, FOIA does not address the use of electronic voting systems that use computer software to cast, record, and publicly display the votes at a public meeting. Whether such a system comports with FOIA depends on whether it publicly displays the individual vote of each member of the public body, or merely the final vote tally.

Moody v. Portsmouth

The letter signed by five members of a city council and presented to another council member in a closed meeting should have been voted on first in open session.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-07-09

Though generally local public bodies may not meet or cast votes by electronic means, a telephone conversation between an administrator and a single member of a public body is not a meeting subject to FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-05-07

The student government of a public institution of higher education is a public body subject to FOIA. The branches of student government are analogous to the organization of government generally (i.e., legislative, executive, and judicial). (Several other related issues discussed.)

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-01-05

School board's motion to go into closed session complied with FOIA's three-part test for such motions. County's vague reference to affirm a recommendation on a personnel matter identified by number rather than by name or position did not comport with FOIA's requirement that votes taken after reconvening after a closed meeting must describe the substance of the action.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-01-03

A public body is not authorized to purchase land between an informal vote taken in properly closed meeting but before a vote on purchase taken in open session. An informal vote taken in a closed meeting is not binding. Members of a public body may individually poll each other for their position on a matter of public business outside the context of either an open meeting or a properly closed one.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-15-02

City council may meet in closed session to discuss slate of candidates to fill a vacancy on that council. Discussion may include consensus or a straw poll to narrow the list of candidates, though no selection would be final or binding unless voted on at a meeting open to the public.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-08-02

City manager may poll council members for advvice on how to spend money in the manager's discretionary fund. Motions to go into closed session must state the general exemption, the purpose and the subject matter of the meeting. No public discussion or vote is needed where a further action is not predicated on council action.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-38-01

It is not a violation of FOIA for public body members to reach a consensus in closed session, but nothing is official until a vote in open session has been taken; a motion to close a meeting listing only the purpose and the statutory citation is inadequate because it does not also identify the purpose of the meeting; FOIA insures the public's right to witness public meetings, it does not guarantee the right to participate in meetings.


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