Michigan Open Meetings Act: Understanding closed sessions
Michigan’s Open Meetings Act was written to ensure that the governmental decision-making process would be accessible to Michigan residents.
In this article series which includes “Michigan’s Open Meetings Act: An introduction” and “Michigan’s Open Meetings Act: Explore the details,” you will learn more about the Open Meetings Act in depth.
The Open Meetings Act provides 11 circumstances where a meeting may be closed to the public. These sessions must be called by a roll call vote of those elected and serving. This requires a majority of the total board, not just those present at the meeting. For a nine-member board, this means five votes in favor of the closed session regardless of how many are in attendance at the meeting. The roll call and the purpose of the closed session go into the minutes of the open meeting. The public body can only deliberate in the closed session. Decisions must be voted on in an open session.
Some of the closed session purposes require a two-thirds vote to approve going into the closed session. These are indicated below by "(2/3)" after the purpose. The 11 closed session purposes are:
- Personnel matters, if requested by the individual, and the individual may rescind the request at any time, but cannot then request to go back into closed session.
- Student discipline, if requested by the student, or their parent or guardian, with the same one time restriction as #1.
- Collective bargaining negotiations, if requested by either party.
- Purchase or lease of real estate up until the time an option to purchase or lease is obtained. (2/3)
- Attorney consultation on specific pending litigation. (2/3)
- Review of applications for employment or appointment, if the candidate requests confidentiality. Interviews must be held in open meetings.
- Partisan caucuses of members of the state legislature.
- Consideration of material exempt from discussion or disclosure by state or federal statute. This includes materials exempt under the Freedom of Information Act, such as written opinions from the board’s attorney. (2/3)
- Department of Commerce health code compliance conference.
- Certain meetings in the search for a university president, if the search process meets several specific criteria spelled out in the act.
- School boards to consider security planning.
Minutes of closed sessions are kept by the clerk for at least one year and one day following the regular meeting at which the closed session was approved, and longer if it is the subject of current litigation. These notes are not available to the public. Individuals requesting closed sessions may not later request that the closed session minutes be made available to the public.
The spirit of the Open Meetings Act is to make government open and accessible to the people. People have the right to attend a meeting of any public body unless the meeting falls under one of the eleven statutory exceptions.
The full text of the Open Meetings Act is available online from the Michigan Legislature website. This site also provides access to all Michigan laws.
The Office of the Attorney General for the State of Michigan has for many years published an excellent Open Meetings Act Handbook, which can be found here.