Golf course discussions not covered by real estate exemption
MISSOURI–The Fulton City Council improperly invoked the state Sunshine Law’s real estate transaction exemption in closing several council meetings that centered on a private developer’s plan to buy land to develop a golf course, a state court of appeals in Kansas City unanimously affirmed in late January.
The court held that because the exemption applies to discussions of real estate transactions made by a governmental body, the 1994 council sessions — which did not concern the lease, purchase, or sale of real estate by the city — should have been open to the public.
The real estate exemption also requires a finding that public knowledge of the transaction could adversely affect its consideration.
After reviewing the minutes of the meetings where the golf course project was discussed, the court found that there was no discussion of bargaining strategies that would affect the price of the real estate.
The court also held that in June 1996 the lower court in Fulton erred in enjoining the city council from conducting future meetings in closed sessions. The open meetings law does not provide for a remedy in the nature of an injunction, the appeals court found.
The lower court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to award attorney’s fees to the plaintiff. The contention that the council purposely violated the open meetings law is “without merit,” the court held.
The appeals court affirmed the lower court’s judgment that the council violated the open meetings law and remanded the case with instructions that the lower court vacate its injunction order. (Spradlin v. City of Fulton, Council: James Erwin, St. Louis)