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1. Number that must be present

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  • Alaska

    By amending the law in 1994 to specify the number of members required to be present to constitute a meeting, the legislature intended to, and did, eliminate virtually all ambiguity about whether any particular gathering constitutes a meeting. In order for a gathering of members of a governmental body to constitute a "meeting," more than three members or a majority of the members, whichever is less, must be present. Since well over 95 percent of the governmental bodies in the state comprise seven or fewer members, the practical effect of this definition is to require the presence of a quorum for all but a relative handful of the groups covered. Comments made during hearings on the 1994 revisions to the OMA underscored that any remaining ambiguity should be resolved in favor of openness, consistent with the general philosophy underlying the act and the longstanding approach the Supreme Court has taken in interpreting it. For example, one of the key legislators in the process of amending the OMA answered a question about whether three or four members would constitute a meeting of a city council, with six members that met regularly, when the mayor was a seventh, ex officio, member who only voted to break ties. The legislature indicated that three members should constitute a meeting given the duty to resolve ambiguities in favor of openness.

    [Note: Before the 1994 amendments to the OMA defined a "meeting," the Alaska Supreme Court had indicated that the absence (or presence) of a quorum was not necessarily determinative of whether the law was violated. Brookwood Area Homeowners Association v. Municipality of Anchorage, 702 P.2d at 1323 n. 6. Because a quorum was probably present in that case, the Supreme Court did not need to decide on a definition of a "meeting." A 1981 Attorney General's opinion had said that when "two or more" members of a public body meet and discuss the business of that body, the OMA applies. See May 11, 1981, Attorney General Opinion No. J-66-655-81. Many, within and outside the press, felt this went too far, as a general rule. However, the Alaska Press Club in its friend-of-the-court brief in the Brookwood case asked the Court not to limit the applicability of the OMA to quorums, even though a quorum was present in that case. There are good arguments that meetings of fewer than a quorum should be governed by the OMA when, for example, the purpose or effect of such a meeting is to circumvent the OMA, or where the group is effectively a "negative quorum" (e.g., when less than a quorum can sustain a veto or prevent action that must be passed by a two-thirds majority). The Supreme Court apparently accepted the press' position, and declined in Brookwood to define a "meeting" narrowly.

    No case involving less than a quorum was squarely addressed by the Court before the legislature stepped in to define "meeting." Two superior courts in 1992 had ruled that the OMA could be violated by a meeting of two members of a body. See Taylor v. Van Brocklin, 3CO-90-46 (Super.Ct. 3d Jud. Dist. at Cordova), a political dispute between a city council member and her colleagues) and Shecter v. City of Fairbanks, and Cummings v. City of Fairbanks, Consolidated Case No. 4FA-91-0029 (Super.Ct. 4th Jud. Dist. at Fairbanks). The Cordova case was not appealed, the Fairbanks case was. Meanwhile, both cases were providing impetus for legislative changes. Local government organizations hoped to use the appeal of the Fairbanks case as a vehicle to get a more restrictive interpretation of the OMA. The Supreme Court, aware that the legislature was actively considering changes to the OMA that would probably include definition of a "meeting," declined to entertain the appeal. The court, in effect, was being asked to render an advisory opinion to define what a "meeting" was — an issue upon which the state legislature has the final word in any event. It avoided the substantive issues by disposing of the case based on a finding that the appeal was moot due to a settlement that occurred between the parties before the appeal was taken.]

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  • Arizona

    “Meeting” is defined as “the gathering, in person or through technological devices, of a quorum of members of a public body at which they discuss, propose or take legal action, including any deliberations by a quorum with respect to such action.”  A.R.S. § 38-431(4).

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  • Arkansas

    (This section is blank. See the subpoints below.)

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  • Connecticut

    In Supina v. Town of Ashford, Do. #FIC 80-197 (Feb. 11, 1981), the FOIC held that when two out of three selectmen met to draft a letter, this gathering constituted a meeting.

    In Town of Bloomfield v. FOIC, 9 Conn. L. Trib. No. 39 (1983), the Superior Court held that a town manager's individual, sequential contacts with a majority of the town council to discuss an agenda item was a meeting.

    In Hauser v. City of New Haven, Do. #FIC 82-88 (Nov. 16, 1982), the FOIC held that when less than a quorum of a public agency met to discuss matters over which the public agency had supervision and control, that constituted a "meeting" despite the lack of a quorum. But see Windham v. FOIC.

    In Frankl v. FOIC, No. CV 97-0568431, 1998 WL 27831 (Conn. Super. Jan. 16, 1998), the Superior Court held that gatherings of a quorum of the Workers' Compensation Board of Commissioners are meetings within the meaning of Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-200(2).

    Under Conn. Gen. Stat. §7-314(b) the meetings of a volunteer fire department that is established by municipal charter or a non-profit Connecticut corporation are exempt from FOIA if they concern fraternal and social matters, but not if they concern matters of public safety, expenditures of public funds, or other public business. For a case under an earlier statute, see Cos Cob Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1 v. FOIC, 212 Conn. 100, 561 A.2d 429 (1989).

    The FOIC, on petition by a public agency contemplating creation of a committee composed entirely of individuals who are not members of the agency, may exempt the committee from FOIA. Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-202.

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  • Delaware

    (This section is blank. See the subpoints below.)

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  • District of Columbia

    A "quorum" of the members of a given public body must be present in order for a gathering to constitute a meeting subject to the Act.  D.C. Code Ann. § 2-574(1).

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  • Georgia

    The Act requires the gathering of a quorum, broadly defined.  O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1(a)(3)(A).  See, e.g., Claxton Enterprise v. Evans County Board of Commissioners, 249 Ga. App. 870, 549 S.E.2d 830 (2001); Jersawitz v. Fortson, 213 Ga. App. 796, 446 S.E.2d 206 (1994).

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  • Idaho

    The Idaho Open Meeting Law defines “meeting” as the “convening of a governing body of a public agency to make a decision or deliberate toward a decision on any matter.” Idaho Code § 74-202(6). Meetings are also broken down into two types – “regular” and “special” – each of which has its own meeting and agenda notice requirements. Idaho Code § 74-202(6)(a)-(b). “Decision” and “deliberations” are also defined terms under the law. Idaho Code § 74-202(1)-(2).

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  • Indiana

    The statute defines meeting as “a gathering of a majority of the governing body of a public agency for the purpose of taking official action upon public business.” Ind. Code § 5-14-1.5-2(c). It does not include:

    - Social or chance gatherings not intended to avoid the Open Door Law;

    - On-site inspections of any project, program, or facilities of applicants for incentives or assistance from the governing body;

    - Traveling to (but not from!) and attending meetings of organizations devoted to betterment of government; or

    - A “caucus.” The statute defines “caucus” as a gathering of members of a political party or coalition which is held for purposes of planning political strategy and holding discussions designed to prepare the members for taking official action. Ind. Code § 5-14-1.5-2(h); see also Evansville Courier v. Willner, 563 N.E.2d 1269, 1271 (Ind. 1990) (“If the persons attending such [political] meetings happen to constitute a majority of a governing body, such a caucus is not thereby transformed into a meeting subject to full public scrutiny under the Open Door Law. It is the taking of official action which changes the character of a majority political party strategy meeting from a private caucus to a public meeting.”).

    - A gathering to discuss an industrial or a commercial prospect that does not include a conclusion as to recommendations, policy, decisions, or final action on the terms of a request or an offer of public financial resources;

    - An orientation of members of the governing body on their role and responsibilities as public officials, but not for any other official action; or

    - A gathering for the sole purpose of administering an oath of office to an individual.

    - Collective bargaining discussions that the governing body of a school corporation engages in directly with bargaining adversaries, and the governing body has not appointed an agent or agents to conduct collective bargaining on behalf of the governing body as described in Section 5-14-1.5-2(b)(3).

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  • Iowa

    "Meeting means a gathering in person or by electronic means, formal or informal, of a majority of the members of a governmental body where there is deliberation or action upon any matter within the scope of the governmental body's policy-making duties. Meetings shall not include a gathering of members of a governmental body for purely ministerial or social purposes when there is not discussion of policy or no intent to avoid the purposes of this chapter." Iowa Code § 21.2(2) (emphasis added).

    Attendance of a majority of members is necessary; otherwise, there is no meeting. Id.; Gavin v. City of Cascade, 500 N.W.2d 729 (Iowa Ct. App. 1993) (finding no meeting had occurred where there was never a majority of the council present); 79 Op. Att'y Gen. 164, 165 (May 16, 1979); see Hutchison v. Shull, 878 N.W.2d 221, 241 (Iowa 2016) (Waterman, J., dissenting) (citing Wedergren v. Bd. of Dirs., 307 N.W.2d 12, 18 (Iowa 1981)) (“We thereby squarely rejected the theory that serial meetings or discussions between fewer than a majority of the board can violate the open meetings law).

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  • Kansas

    Majority must be present. K.S.A. 75-4317a.

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  • Kentucky

    Generally, Kentucky’s Open Meetings Act applies to any meeting of a quorum of the members of a public agency, which is ordinarily a simple majority. See Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.810(1).  The Act also applies to a series of less-than-quorum meetings. See Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.810(2).

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  • Maryland

    To "meet" under the Act means to convene a quorum of the members of a public body to consider or transact public business. § 3-101(g). A "quorum" means a majority of the members of a public body or any different number required by law. § 3-101(k); see also 9 OMCB Opinions 307, 310 (2015) (concluding that a bylaw alone is not a “law” that would exempt a particular body from the Act’s definition of a quorum). A meeting consisting of less than a quorum may be subject to the Act if an intent to circumvent the Act can be proved. See § 3-103(a)(2).

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  • Michigan

    Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.262 defines those meetings which are subject to the OMA as: "'Meeting' means the convening of a public body at which a quorum is present for the purpose of deliberating toward or rendering a decision on a public policy." Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.262(b). See also Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.263(3) ("All deliberations of a public body constituting a quorum of its members shall take place at a meeting open to the public except as otherwise provided in [the exemption sections of the OMA]"). Any exceptions to the requirement of an open meeting when a quorum is present have been based on the purpose for which the quorum is present. See 1979-80 Op. Att'y Gen. 386 (1979) (a quorum of a local board of education may meet with the State Board of Education to listen to the State Board's position on issues of concern to the local board without complying with the requirements of the OMA, as long as the local board does not, at such a meeting, deliberate upon or decide matters of public policy); 1977-78 Op. Att'y Gen. 21, 35 (1977) (where members of a public body are invited to address a civic organization and a sufficient number of the members of the body are present to constitute a quorum, such a situation is neither the "convening" of a public body nor is the quorum present "for the purpose of deliberating toward or rendering a decision"; thus, such an occasion is not a "meeting" within the definition of the OMA); Ryant v. Cleveland Twp., 239 Mich. App. 430, 608 N.W. 2d 101 (2000) (planning commission meeting in which quorum of township board present not a meeting subject to OMA where the board members other than the supervisor, were observers only and did not engage in discussion).

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  • Nebraska

    Open Meetings Act does not define number of members of public body that must be present, nor does it define a quorum, or the effect of absence of a quorum. The Open Meetings Act does not apply to subcommittees of public bodies "unless a quorum of the public body attends a subcommittee meeting." Nev. Rev. Stat. §84-1409(1)(b)(i). Particular statutes governing individual boards, agencies or public bodies may define such requirements.

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  • New Jersey

    A meeting attended by less than a quorum or majority of the members of the public body is not subject to the provisions of OPMA, unless this group has effective authority to act on public business or prevent public business from coming before the public body. N.J.S.A. 10:4-8b and c; Atty. Gen. Formal Opinion 1976, No. 19. OPMA specifically prohibits any person or public body from failing to invite a portion of its members to a meeting "for the purpose of circumventing" any provisions of the law. N.J.S.A. 10:4-11. Thus, a public body cannot hold two or more meetings with small groups of its members to discuss an issue in order to avoid holding a public meeting of all members on the issue.

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  • Ohio

    The statute defines "meeting" as "any prearranged discussion of the public business of the public body by a majority of its members." Ohio Rev. Code § 121.22(B)(2).

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  • Oklahoma

    A meeting is the conducting of business of a public body by a majority of its members meeting together. 25 O.S. § 304.2. International Ass'n of Firefighters, supra (key consideration is the public nature of the work of the group). Rogers v. Excise Board of Greer County, 1984 OK 95, 701 P.2d 754 (meetings held on legal holidays in locked public buildings do not comply with the law). A meeting may also be held by videoconference when a public body has been granted such authority by the legislature. 25 O.S. §§ 304.2 and 304.7; 25 O.S. § 306.

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  • Rhode Island

    The Rhode Island Supreme Court has interpreted the OML to require that a quorum must be present to constitute a meeting for purposes of the OML. See e.g. Fischer v. Zoning Bd. of Town of Charlestown, 723 A.2d 294 (R.I. 1999).  A quorum is a simple majority unless otherwise defined by law. R.I. Gen. Laws §  42-46-2(4).  However, a public body cannot circumvent the requirements of the OML by discussing a matter that is before it in a series of one-on-one conversations.  Op. Att’y Gen. No. ADV OM 04-04 (Apr. 16, 2004), 2004 WL 3557538.

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  • South Carolina

    A meeting is the convening of a quorum of the constituent membership of a public body. S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-20(d). A quorum unless otherwise defined in law is a simple majority of the constituent membership of the body. S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-20(e).

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  • Virginia

    As many as three members or a quorum, if less than three, of the constituent membership. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3701 (definition of “meeting”).

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  • Washington

    The Act states that all meetings of the “governing body” must be open to the public. The governing body is defined as any multimember board, commission, committee, council, or other policy or rulemaking body. RCW 42.30.020(2). The meeting need not take place in a formal setting.
    For example, in 1998, the Washington State Auditor found that Algona Economic Development Corporation Public Development Authority violated the OPMA when it held dinner meetings on the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train and on cruises in the Puget Sound. In 1999, the Auditor held that some members of the Monroe City Council violated the OPMA when they met after public meetings at a local restaurant. In both cases, the members of the governing body discussed business in addition to socializing. The business discussions made the gatherings meetings held in violation of the Act. Thus, any time members of a governing body discuss official business, the public must have access. Where a quorum of the city council takes “action” (as defined in the statute) at a standing committee meeting, a city council meeting has occurred. Op.Atty.Gen.2010, No. 9, 2010 WL 4963127.

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  • West Virginia

    (This section is blank. See the subpoints below.)

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  • Wyoming

    A quorum of the governing body.

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