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Opening Meetings

Updated: 04/21/2010

IS MY MEETING SUBJECT TO OPEN MEETINGS LAW?

"Official meetings" of "public bodies" must be open to the public. This includes most university standing committees and some search committees.

A "public body" at NC State is:

  • any committee or group established by a vice chancellor or higher authority,
  • whose membership is not just university administrators,
  • that deals with matters on a university-wide basis, and
  • makes findings, decisions, or recommendations on a quasi-legislative, quasi-judicial, policy-making, or administrative action.

See  http://www.northcarolina.edu/policy/index.php?pg=vb&node_id=303

An “official meeting” occurs when a majority of the public body attends the meeting, AND the meeting is for the purposes of conducting hearings, deliberations, voting, or otherwise conducting public business.  Official meetings may be conducted conference calls or other electronic means.  Informal gatherings may not be used to evade the law.

WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR AN OPEN MEETING?

Post notice:  the public body must post advance notice of official meetings. Regularly scheduled meetings should be posted at least 7 days in advance, and other meetings should be posted at least 48 hours in advance.  There are additional notice requirements for persons who request email or mail notice.  Please contact Keith Nichols or other staff in Public Affairs (http://www.ncsu.edu/univ_relations/OPAstaff.html) for assistance with posting notice of open meetings. 

Keep Minutes:  the public body must keep accurate minutes of its meetings.

Make Motion to Go into Closed Session:

A public body may conduct a closed meeting to prevent disclosure of privileged or otherwise confidential information. During an open meeting session, the public body must make a motion to close the meeting and cite the law that provides for confidentiality. Some justifications for closed meetings include:

  • to prevent premature disclosure of honorary degrees, prizes, scholarships, or other awards
  • to receive information or discussions with an attorney under the attorney-client privilege. However, the discussions must be within the scope of the privilege. An entire meeting cannot be closed just because a lawyer is present.
  • to discuss expansion of business or industry or to offer incentives to businesses
  • to discuss buying land, leasing property, or employment contracts
  • to consider an employee’s qualifications, complaints about an employee, or other personnel matters
  • to plan, conduct, or review reports from hearings concerning criminal misconduct or to prevent disclosure of student records
  • to prevent disclosure of personnel records

See http://www.provost.ncsu.edu/governance/openmeet/closed-sessions.php for a script to use in making motions to go into closed session.

CONSEQUENCES  

When a public body does not comply with open meetings law, a court may declare actions taken during the closed meeting to be "null and void." In addition, the court may award attorney’s fees to the winning party when a closed meeting is challenged in court and may direct that members of the public body pay for such costs personally if there is an intentional violation.

RESOURCES

N.C. General Statutes on Open Meetings are at Chapter 143, Article 33C

Guidance for committee chairs and other advice are posted by the Provost at http://www.provost.ncsu.edu/governance/openmeet/index.php

Call the Office of General Counsel at 919-515-3071 for assistance