Following the proper rules for an Open Meeting

Is it acceptable to have "closed session" on the agenda?

A recent question was sent to Michigan State University Extension Educators regarding a closed session in a Michigan city. The writer asked, “I was under the impression that any ‘closed’ meeting had to have a motion, support for the motion and then voted on by a 2/3 majority that takes place in an ‘open’ meeting?  Can it just be scheduled on an agenda? My city is holding a ‘closed’ meeting that was simply put on the agenda but was never voted on.”

This document by Attorney General Schuette helps to provide clarity around Open Meetings in Michigan.  It outlines in simple, understandable language the details of the Open Meetings Act (OMA) and Closed Session requirements. 

Section 7(1) of the OMA sets out the procedure for calling a closed session:

"A 2/3 roll call vote of members elected or appointed and serving is required to call a closed session, except for the closed sessions permitted under section 8 (a), (b), (c), (g), (i), and (j). The roll call vote and the purpose or purposes for calling the closed session shall be entered into the minutes of the meeting at which the vote is taken."

Thus, a public body may go into closed session only upon a motion duly made, seconded and adopted by a 2/3 roll call vote of the members appointed and serving during an open meeting for the purpose of (1) considering the purchase or lease of real property, (2) consulting with their attorney, (3) considering an employment application or (4) considering material exempt from disclosure under state or federal law. A majority vote is sufficient for going into closed session for the other OMA permitted purposes.

It could be assumed that the city in question above put this item on the agenda because they knew they would need to consult with their attorney, for example. Having the item on the agenda does not negate the need for the vote. When the board reaches that agenda item, they would actually take the vote at that time and still be in compliance with Michigan OMA. 

MSU Extension Educators can provide your organization with assistance in learning more about parliamentary procedure. The Government and Public Policy team also offers training for elected and appointed officials for improved effectiveness in several areas, including various public policy issues and effects of government programs, regulation, incentives, strategies and more. By working together with local elected and appointed officials, and interested citizens, MSU Extension is able to provide education on critical local and state issues. To contact an expert in your area, visit MSU Extension’s expert search system or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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