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a. Definition


  • Alabama

    The Alabama Open Meetings Act’s “special meetings” include (1) the prearranged gathering of a quorum of a governmental body, a quorum of a committee or a quorum of a subcommittee during which the body, committee or subcommittee is authorized to exercise the powers which it possesses or approve the expenditure of public funds, and (2) the gathering, whether or not it was prearranged, of a quorum of a governmental body, a quorum of a committee or a quorum of a subcommittee during which the members deliberate specific matters that, at the time of the exchange, the participating members expect to come before the body, committee or subcommittee at a later date. See Ala. Code §§ 36-25A-2(6)(a)(2)–(3) & 36-25A-3(b).

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  • Alaska

    The OMA does not define special or emergency meetings, or distinguish between them and regular meetings. It simply requires "reasonable notice" for all meetings. AS 44.62.310(e). Attorney General's opinions provide further guidance. Special meetings are ones that are unscheduled, as opposed to ones that occur at a regular, fixed time and place. Emergency meetings consist solely of situations that call for immediate action to protect the public peace, health or safety. See May 11, 1981, Attorney General Opinion, at 6.

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  • Arizona

    Emergency meetings require an “actual emergency.”  A.R.S. § 38-431.02(D), (J).  The Arizona Court of Appeals requires that the emergency be “real” and “existing in fact,” not “nominal” or “‘constructive’ or merely ‘possible’ or ‘conceivable.’”  Carefree Improvement Ass'n v. City of Scottsdale, 133 Ariz. 106, 113, 649 P.2d 985, 992 (Ct. App. 1982).  An “emergency” is “an unforeseen combination of circumstances which call for immediate action.”  Id.

    Emergency executive sessions may also be held.  A.R.S. § 38-431.02(D).

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  • Arkansas

    As is the case with regular meetings, the FOIA does not define special or emergency meetings. Anything other than a regular meeting would apparently fall into this category. If, for example, a city council adjourned a regular meeting only to reconvene moments later, the new meeting would be a special meeting. Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. Nos. 98-104, 95-308, 93-308, 93-299.

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  • California

    Special Meetings:

    Bagley-Keene Act. A special meeting may be called any time by the presiding officer or by a majority of the state body. Cal. Gov't Code § 11125.4(a). A special meeting may only be called where compliance with the 10-day notice requirement for regular meetings places a substantial hardship on the state body or where immediate action is required to protect the public interest. Id. At the beginning of a special meeting, the body must make specific factual findings in open session that the 10-day notice requirement for a regular meeting places a substantial hardship on the state body or that immediate action is required to protect the public interest. Cal. Gov't Code § 11125.4(c). The finding must be adopted by a 2/3 vote of the body, or if less than 2/3 of the members are present, then by a unanimous vote of all present, otherwise the meeting must terminate. Id. The finding must be made available on the Internet. Id.

    Only the following items may be considered during a special meeting: (1) pending litigation, (2) proposed litigation, (3) issuance of a legal opinion, (4) disciplinary action involving a state officer or employee, (5) the purchase, sale, exchange or lease of real property, (6) license examinations and applications, (7) action on a loan or grant pursuant to California Health and Safety Code Section 50000 et. seq. (housing and home finance), (8) response to a confidential final draft audit report as permitted by Section 11126.2, (9) to provide for an interim executive officer upon the death, incapacity, or vacancy in the office of that officer. Cal. Gov't Code § 11125.4(a). No other business shall be considered at the special meeting. Cal. Gov't Code § 11125.4(b).

    Brown Act. A special meeting may be called any time by a presiding officer or by a majority of the legislative body of a local agency by delivering written notice to each member of the legislative body, to each local newspaper of general circulation, and to radio or television stations that have requested such notice in writing. Cal. Gov't Code § 54956(a). The notice must be "received" at least 24 hours before the time of the meeting, and must specify the time, place and business to be transacted or discussed. Id. Only the items of business specified in the notice can be considered at a special meeting. Id.

    Emergency Meetings:

    Bagley-Keene Act: Under the Bagley-Keene Act, a body may hold an emergency meeting in case of an emergency situation involving matters upon which prompt action is necessary due to the disruption or threatened disruption of public facilities. Cal. Gov't Code § 11125.5.

    An "emergency situation" means any of the following, as determined by a majority of the state body during a meeting prior to the emergency meeting or at the beginning of an emergency meeting: (1) work stoppage or other activity that severely impairs public health or safety, or both, or (2) a crippling disaster that severely impairs public health or safety, or both. Cal. Gov't Code § 11125.5(b).

    Brown Act: Under the Brown Act, a legislative body may hold an emergency meeting if there is an "emergency situation," which is defined by both of the following:

    An emergency, which shall be defined as a work stoppage, crippling activity, or other activity that severely impairs public health, safety, or both, as determined by a majority of the members of the legislative body. Cal. Gov’t Code § 54956.5(a)(1).

    A dire emergency, which shall be defined as a crippling disaster, mass destruction, terrorist act, or threatened terrorist activity that poses peril so immediate and significant that requiring a legislative body to provide one-hour notice before holding an emergency meeting under this section may endanger the public health, safety or both, as determined by a majority of the members of the legislative body. Cal. Gov't Code § 54956.5(a)(2).

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  • Colorado

    An "emergency" is defined as "an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action." Thus, an emergency necessarily presents a situation in which public notice, and likewise, a public forum, would be either impractical or impossible. Lewis v. Town of Nederland, 934 P.2d 848 (Colo. App. 1996).

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  • Connecticut

    A “special meeting” and an “emergency meeting” are not specifically defined in FOIA.

    In Board of Selectmen v. FOIC, 294 Conn. 438, 984 A.2d 748 (2010), the Supreme Court held that the FOIC's construction of what constituted an emergency – an emergency meeting may be held only when there is no time for a special meeting notice to be posted twenty-four hours in advance – was reasonable.  The court affirmed the FOIC’s determination that the verbal altercation between public officials did not constitute an emergency.  See also Lebanon v. Wayland, 39 Conn. Sup. 56, 61-62, 467 A.2d 1267 (1983).

    In Town of Hamden v. FOIC, 3 CSCR 185 (1988), the Superior Court upheld the FOIC’s voiding of a vote taken at an allegedly “emergency meeting,” upholding the FOIC’s finding that the agency could not prove its inability to give the 24-hour notice required by Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-225, because it could not show a “compelling necessity” to justify an emergency meeting.

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  • Delaware

    An emergency meeting is defined as one that is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety. 29 Del. C. § 10004(e)(1). A special or rescheduled meeting is defined as a meeting held less than seven days after the scheduling decision is made. Id. § 10004(e)(4).

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  • District of Columbia

    Not specifically addressed.

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  • Georgia

    The Act provides one set of requirements for special meetings for which the agency affords at least 24-hours’ notice, see O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1(d)(2), and another set of requirements for irregular meetings that because of special circumstances are called with less than 24-hours’ notice, see § 50-14-1(d)(3).

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  • Hawaii

    A board may hold an emergency meeting if two-thirds of all members to which the board is entitled agree that either (1) an imminent peril to public health, safety, or welfare requires a meeting in less than six calendar days; or (2) an unanticipated event requires a board to take action on a matter within its power in less than six calendar days. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92-8 (2005).

    "Unanticipated events" include:

    (1) An event which members of the board did not have sufficient advance knowledge of or reasonably could not have known about from information published by the media or information generally available in the community;

    (2) A deadline established by a legislative body, a court, or a federal, state, or county agency beyond the control of a board; or

    (3) A consequence of an event for which reasonably informed and knowledgeable board members could not have taken all necessary action.

    Id. § 92-8(c).

    A board may also hold a limited meeting if it determines that it is necessary to meet at a location that is dangerous to health or safety, or if necessary to conduct an on-site inspection of a location that is related to the board’s business at which public attendance is not practicable, and the Director of OIP concurs. Id. § 92-3.1(a).

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  • Idaho

    A “special meeting” is the “convening of the governing body pursuant to a special call for the conduct of business as specified in the call.” Idaho Code § 74-202(6)(b).

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  • Illinois

    The Act does not define special or emergency meeting. Presumably, such a meeting is one that is not on the schedule of regular meetings.

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  • Indiana

    Special or emergency meetings are not defined. However, if a meeting is called to deal with an emergency involving actual or threatened injury to person or property, or actual or threatened disruption of the governmental activity of the jurisdiction of the public agency, the time limits for notice are altered. Ind. Code § 5-14-1.5-5(d).

    For illustrations of special meetings, see Prop. Owners, Inc. v. City of Anderson, 107 N.E.2d 3 (Ind. 1952); Prenzel v. City of Evansville, 99 N.E.2d 913 (Ind. App. 1951).

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  • Iowa

    There is no provision in the statute for a special or emergency meeting as such. However, meetings on less than twenty-four hours’ notice are clearly contemplated by the statute. See Iowa Code § 21.4(2).

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  • Kansas

    None given by law.

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  • Kentucky

    A “special” meeting is “[a]ny meeting which deviates from the regular schedule of meetings.” 92-OMD-1473. "If the public agency holds a meeting in addition to, outside of or in place of the regular schedule of meetings that meeting is a special meeting . . . ." 92-OMD-1677.

    Even a regularly scheduled meeting may be a special meeting if it is rescheduled for a different time. See 92-OMD-1473; 92-OMD-1677; see also Coppage v. Ohio Co. Bd. of Educ., 860 S.W.2d 779, 784 (Ky. Ct. App. 1992) (treating rescheduled board meeting as special meeting).

    To constitute an “emergency” meeting, there must be circumstances “sufficiently grave to warrant a decision to call an emergency meeting . . . Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.823(5) [which provides for alternative requirements for special meetings in the case of an emergency] may be invoked by public agencies on only the rarest of occasions, and then only when emergency conditions prevail.” 00-OMD-80. "Examples of an emergency under this definition would include, but not be limited to, occurrences such as a natural catastrophe or civil unrest. However, a determination of what constitutes an emergency is intrinsically situational, requiring a case-specific analysis directed at ascertaining whether circumstances are sufficiently serious, unexpected, and in need of immediate action to justify a suspension of the normal rules of proceeding." 00-OMD-80.

    In 00-OMD-80, the Attorney General held that a community college board of directors improperly claimed its meeting was an "emergency" meeting, where it was to discuss a request that a bill be drafted, before the last date for filing new legislation in the General Assembly, to change the college's name, reasoning that such was not "a sufficient basis for declaring that an emergency exists."  In 00-OMD-227, the Attorney General held that the Department of Insurance's Health Insurance Advisory Committee improperly characterized a meeting to discuss implementation of legislation requiring issuance of health benefit plans as an "emergency" meeting because no emergency existed on the meeting date "of the magnitude contemplated by the statute [that would otherwise] justify a suspension of the normal rules of proceeding."  In 02-OMD-91, the Attorney General disapproved of a city council's characterization of a meeting to discuss enactment of a tall structures ordinance, before the Governor signed a bill threatening the ordinance's enactment, as an "emergency" meeting, notwithstanding the council's claim of "civil unrest … resulting from opposition to the cell tower."

    However, in 06-OMD-156, the Attorney General accepted the “emergency” nature of a fiscal court meeting to enact a budget before the expiration of the fiscal year. Although the delay was attributable to the fiscal court, the Attorney General found adequate proof of an imminent emergency that would result from the failure to enact a timely budget ordinance, specifically, the cessation of all vital services to the county’s citizens. Id.

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  • Louisiana

    The statute does not define "special meetings." "[C]ases of extraordinary emergency" are limited to "national disaster, threat of epidemic, civil disturbances, suppression of insurrections, the repelling of invasions, or other matters of similar magnitude." La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42:17(A)(5).

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  • Maine

    The Act recognizes that bodies may hold emergency meetings, but the term is not defined.  1 M.R.S.A. § 406. There is a new law, effective July 30, 2021, that allows certain bodies to restrict public attendance at emergency meetings to remote participation only. 1 M.R.S. §403-B (2021).

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  • Massachusetts

    "Emergency" for meeting purposes is defined as "a sudden, generally unexpected occurrence or set of circumstances demanding immediate action." 940 CMR 29.02. The emergency must be of such a nature that there is not time to wait 48 hours to hold a meeting. There is no provision for "special" meetings.

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  • Michigan

    Special meetings are not defined under the OMA.

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  • Minnesota

    "Special" meetings are dealt with extensively in Minn. Stat. § 13D.04, subd. 2 but are not explicitly defined by the statute. An "emergency meeting" is a "special meeting called because of circumstances that, in the judgment of the public body, require immediate consideration by the public body." Minn. Stat. § 13D.04, subd. 3(e).

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  • Mississippi

    No statutory definition.

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  • Missouri

    The law contemplates that it may, in certain instances, be necessary to hold a public meeting on less than twenty-four hours notice, or at a place that is not reasonably accessible to the public, or at a time that is not reasonably convenient to the public. Mo.Rev.Stat. § 610.020.3. Such meetings are permitted for good cause.

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  • Montana

    There is no specific requirement related to notice of special or emergency meetings, and there is no Montana Supreme Court decision on that issue.

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  • Nebraska

    No specific definition of special or emergency meeting. However, the nature of the emergency must be stated in the minutes. Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-1411(5) (Cum. Supp. 2017).

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  • Nevada

    In an emergency, a public body may act without complying with certain OML requirements related to notice and agendas. “Emergency” means “an unforeseen circumstance which requires immediate action and includes, but is not limited to: (a) Disasters caused by fire, flood, earthquake or other natural causes; or (b) Any impairment of the health and safety of the public." NRS 241.020(10). Except for the exemptions from the notice and agenda requirements, all other requirements of the OML must continue to be observed for emergency meetings.

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  • New Hampshire

    The Statute defines “emergency” to mean “a situation where immediate undelayed action is deemed to be imperative by the chairman or presiding officer of the public body, who shall post a notice of the time and place of such meeting as soon as practicable, and shall employ whatever further means are reasonably available to inform the public that a meeting is to be held.” RSA 91-A:2,II.

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  • New Jersey

    A special meeting is any meeting not listed on the annual schedule of regular meetings for which written advance notice of at least 48 hours can be given. N.J.S.A. 10:4-8d.

    N.J.S.A. 10:4-9b governs emergency meetings and provides:

    Upon the affirmative vote of three quarters of the members present a public body may hold a meeting notwithstanding the failure to provide adequate notice if:

    (1) such meeting is required in order to deal with matters of such urgency and importance that a delay for the purpose of providing adequate notice would be likely to result in substantial harm to the public interest; and

    (2) the meeting is limited to discussion of and acting with respect to such matters of urgency and importance; and

    (3) notice of such meeting is provided as soon as possible following the calling of such meeting by posting written notice of the same in the public place described in section 3. d. above, and also by notifying the two newspapers described in section 3. d. by telephone, telegram, or by delivering a written notice of same to such newspapers; and

    (4) either (a) the public body could not reasonably have foreseen the need for such meeting at a time when adequate notice could have been provided; or (b) although the public body could reasonably have foreseen the need for such meeting at a time when adequate notice could have been provided, it nevertheless failed to do so.

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  • New Mexico

    An emergency refers to unforeseen circumstances that, if not addressed immediately, will likely result in injury or damage to persons or properties or substantial financial loss to the public body. NMSA 1978 § 10-15-1(F).

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  • New York

    The statute does not specifically address special or emergency meetings. It does, however, in its notice provisions, address meetings which have not been scheduled at least one week in advance. N.Y. Pub. Off. Law § 104(2) (McKinney 1988).

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  • North Carolina

    A “special meeting” is any meeting other than a regular or emergency meeting. An emergency meeting is “one called because of generally unexpected circumstances that require immediate consideration by the public body.” G.S. § 143-318.12(b)(3).

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  • North Dakota

    There is no statutory definition of special or emergency meetings, but such a meeting is presumably a meeting that is not regularly scheduled. See N.D.C.C. § 44-04-20.

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  • Ohio

    Special meetings are not defined in the statute, but a common sense reading of the statute indicates that special meetings are those authorized by law that are not scheduled at regular intervals and are called to discuss or vote upon a particular subject.

    Emergency meetings are a kind of special meeting called to consider an emergency that requires "immediate official action." Ohio Rev. Code § 121.22(F).

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  • Oklahoma

    A special meeting of a public body is one that is not regularly scheduled or not an emergency. 25 O.S. § 304.4. An emergency meeting is one called when a situation involves injury to persons or injury and damage to public or personal property or immediate financial loss and the time requirements for public notice of a special meeting would make such procedure impractical and increase the likelihood of injury or damage or immediate financial loss. 25 O.S. § 304.5.

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  • Oregon

    There is no statutory definition, but it appears this refers to a meeting not regularly scheduled or called on short notice.

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  • Pennsylvania

    A special meeting is a “meeting scheduled by an agency after the agency’s regular schedule of meetings has been established.” 65 Pa. C.S.A. §  703. An “emergency” meeting is a “meeting called for the purpose of dealing with a real or potential emergency involving a clear and present danger to life or property.” Id. An emergency meeting requires a true emergency. See, e.g., In re Petition of Bd. of Dirs. of Hazleton Area Sch. Dist., 527 A.2d 1091, 1093, n.3 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1987) (stating that a school district’s “adoption or failure to adopt a [redistricting] plan did not in any way pose a ‘clear and present danger to life or property.’”).

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  • Rhode Island

    An emergency meeting may be held upon majority vote of the members of a public body when deemed necessary to address an unexpected occurrence that requires immediate action to protect the public. R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-6(c).

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  • South Carolina

    Not defined in the act, but since 24-hour advance notice is required for special meetings, an emergency meeting for which notice is not required should be for a purpose that cannot wait until the notice period has expired. S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-80.

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  • Tennessee

    A special meeting is one that is not previously scheduled by statute, ordinance, or resolution, or for which notice is not already provided by law. T.C.A. § 8-44-103(b) (1995).

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  • Texas

    An emergency meeting can be called in the event of (1) an imminent threat to public health and safety, or (2) a reasonably unforeseeable situation Tex. Gov’t Code § 551.045(b). The 2019 legislature amended the definition of an “imminent threat to public health and safety” to include fire, flood, earthquake, hurricane, tornado, or wind, rain or snow storm; as well as power failure, transportation failure, or interruption of communication facilities; epidemic; or riot, civil disturbance, enemy attack, or other actual or threatened lawlessness or violence.  Id. at (b)(2).  In the event of such a meeting, notice can be given at least one hour prior to the meeting. Id. at (a).

    Special or emergency meetings cannot be held in the absence of a bona fide emergency, and only if the meetings are properly noticed. Harris Cty. Emergency Serv. Dist. # 1 v. Harris Cty. Emergency Corps., 999 S.W.2d 163, 167 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 1999, no pet.).


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  • Utah

    An “emergency meeting” may be held by a public body if “because of unforeseen circumstances it is necessary for a public body to hold an emergency meeting to consider matters of an emergency or urgent nature.” Utah Code § 52-4-202(5)(a)(i). A public body may not hold an emergency meeting unless “(i) an attempt has been made to notify all the members of the public body; and (ii) a majority of the members of the public body approve the meeting.” Id. § 52-4-202(5)(b).

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  • Vermont

    “Special meetings” are not defined in the Vermont Open Meeting Law.  The statute provides that emergency meetings “may be held only when necessary to respond to an unforeseen occurrence or condition requiring immediate attention by the public body.”  1 V.S.A. § 312(c)(3).

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  • Virginia

    "Emergency" is defined in the Act as “an unforeseen circumstance rendering the notice requirements” of the Act “impossible or impracticable and which circumstance requires immediate action.” Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3701. A public body may conduct an emergency meeting by electronic communication means with the quorum requirement suspended under circumstances stated, and employing the procedures specified, in Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-2708.2.A.3. (declared state of emergency).

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  • Washington

    None provided for special meetings. Emergency meetings, which may be held without notice, must involve an emergency threatening sudden, unexpected and severe physical damage to persons or property and requiring immediate action. RCW 42.30.080; Mead Sch. Dist. v. Mead Educ. Ass’n, 85 Wn.2d 140, 530 P.2d 302 (1975) (holding that an impending teacher’s strike was not such an emergency).

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  • West Virginia

    An emergency meeting is defined simply as a meeting required to be held because "immediate official action" is required.

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  • Wyoming

    Special meetings may be called by the presiding officer of the governing body at any time. No other business other than that included in the notice of a special meeting shall be considered at a special meeting. See, e.g., Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-404(b) (1977, Rev. 1995).

    Emergency meetings have no notice requirement and deal with matters of serious immediate concern. All action taken at an emergency meeting is considered temporary. For an action to become permanent, it must be reconsidered and acted upon at an open public meeting within forty-eight hours, thus fulfilling the notice requirements. See, e.g., Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-404(d) (1977, Rev. 1995).

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