Q&A: Merit board executive session


From the Brown County Democrat (Nashville):

Question: The newspaper has learned that the sheriff’s merit board went into an executive session during its regularly scheduled meeting last night and conducted another executive session this morning. No notice was given to the newspaper for the two executive sessions. Since the newspaper couldn’t attend the regular meeting, board members said they didn’t think they had to give notice. Does this violate the Open Door Law?

Answer: Yes. Whether the public can attend or not doesn’t change the obligation for any governing body to give notice of a meeting – even an executive session.

The notice for an executive session spells out the subject matter that allows for a closed-door session.

The notice allows the public or a reporter to question whether the provision in law cited is what the governing body intends to discuss.

A pattern of executive sessions, all concerning the same subject matter, can be a signal of an underlining problem within a public agency. Holding illegal executive sessions opens the door for a legal challenge to decisions made that are connected to the illegal meeting.

For media law questions, contact Stephen Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.