Q&A: Reporter in executive session

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The following questions came from The Daily World (Linton):

Q: Can a town council allow a member of the media into an executive session? What ramifications could occur if a media member reports on what happened in the meeting?

We had it happen locally, and the media member reported on the demotion of the town marshal. The report included great detail about what the council didn’t like about the marshal’s job performance. 

A: Whether or not an executive session is held depends on the subject matter discussed.

In your case, it sounds like it was to receive information about reported misconduct of an employee, which can be done in an executive session. If the entity can hold an executive session, it can determine who should be allowed to attend that executive session.

If officials want to allow a reporter in, they can do so.

It’s highly unusual. I think I may have heard of one other instance where that occurred.

Once a reporter is allowed to observe, there isn’t any statutory basis to prevent the reporter from writing about the executive session.

In a similar fashion, public agencies can keep their personnel files confiden­tial at their discretion, which means they also have the discretion to release information from the files.

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

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