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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

General Subject Matter of an Agenda Item

Section 2.02(c) of the Open Meetings Act provides that any agenda shall set forth the “general subject matter” of an item that will be the subject of final action at the meeting. The PAC has previously determined that “general subject matter” means that an agenda must set forth only the main elements rather than the specific details of  an item on which the public body intends to take final action.   

In a recent advisory opinion, the PAC offered guidance on “general subject matter.”  A public body took final action on an item listed as “Recommendation for Appointments” on the agenda. The agenda failed to list names, offices, or terms for the appointments. The PAC found that the public body did not violate the Open Meetings Act by failing to list the names, offices, or terms, as only the “general subject matter” needs to be listed on the agenda. The PAC specified that these additional details are not required. The PAC looked to the Senate debate on Public Act 97-827, which added 2.02(c) to the Open Meetings Act, noting that the General Assembly stated that the agenda need only set out general notice so that people who follow their units of government know what will be acted on.  The PAC also found it was proper for the Board to take final action, even though the agenda listed it as a “recommendation.” The PAC stated that the requirement that the general subject matter of an item on which final action may be taken be posted on the agenda 48 hours in advance presumes that the item may be the subject of final action, despite language to the contrary. 

This is a good decision for public bodies as it makes clear that an agenda only need set out the general subject matter of an item, without listing specifics such as names, offices, or terms. The important issue is making sure the public has a general idea of the nature of an action a public body intends to take at a meeting.

Post Authored by Erin Pell, Ancel Glink


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