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Friday, June 14, 2013

Breaking News - PAC Finds Public Body Did Not Violate OMA

Yes, that's right, the PAC issued a binding opinion finding a public body's actions in compliance with the Open Meetings Act.  In its 10th opinion of 2013 (PAC Op. 13-101), the PAC concluded that the Springfield Board of Education for Public School District No. 186 did not take final action in closed session and complied with the OMA by adequately informing the public of the nature of the business being conducted before voting to appoint an interim superintendent.

A newspaper reporter had filed a request for review with the PAC alleging that the Board held a special meeting at which it voted to select an interim superintendent in closed session.  The allegations were based on a press release issued the day after the closed session that stated that the Board had "reached a consensus" but that it "plans to take formal action" at a later meeting.  The Board responded that the Board's closed session did include discussions about selecting an interim superintendent, but that final action on the selection was not made until a future meeting, in open session, and after a "robust public discussion" before voting.  The Board acknowledged that it issued a press release after the closed session but stated that no final action was taken until the later meeting.
The PAC first reviewed the verbatim recordings of the closed session and found that the discussions were appropriate for closed session.  Second, the PAC determined that although the press release stated that the Board reached a consensus, the recordings show that the Board did not make a final decision to appoint the interim superintendent, and the Board did not vote, informally or formally, in closed session. Finally, the PAC determined that the Board substantively described and publicly discussed the appointment at the later meeting, before a vote was taken. 


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