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a. "Information gathering" and "fact-finding" sessions

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  • Alabama

    These sessions are presumptively subject to the Alabama Open Meetings Act, except (1) to discuss the general reputation and character, physical condition, professional competence or mental health of individuals, or the job performance of certain public employees; (2) when expressly allowed by federal law or state law, to consider the discipline or dismissal of, or to hear formal written complaints or charges brought against a public employee, a student at a public school or college, or an individual, corporation, partnership, or other legal entity subject to the regulation of the governmental body; (3) to discuss with the governmental body's attorney the legal ramifications of and legal options for pending litigation, controversies not yet being litigated but imminently likely to be litigated or imminently likely to be litigated if the governmental body pursues a proposed course of action or to meet or confer with a mediator or arbitrator with respect to any litigation or decision concerning matters within the jurisdiction of the governmental body involving another party, group or body; (4) to discuss security plans, procedures, assessments, measures or systems, or the security or safety of persons, structures, facilities or other infrastructures, including, without limitation, information concerning critical infrastructure and critical energy infrastructure information, the public disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to be detrimental to public safety or welfare; (5) to discuss information that would disclose the identity of an undercover law enforcement agent or informer or to discuss the criminal investigation of a person who is not a public official in which allegations or charges of specific criminal misconduct have been made or to discuss whether or not to file a criminal complaint; (6) to discuss the consideration the governmental body is willing to offer or accept when considering the purchase, sale, exchange, lease or market value of real property; (7) to discuss preliminary negotiations involving matters of trade or commerce in which the governmental body is in competition with private individuals or entities or other governmental bodies in Alabama or in other states or foreign nations or to discuss matters or information of the character defined or described in the Alabama Trade Secrets Act; and (8) to discuss strategy in preparation for negotiations between the governmental body and a group of public employees.

    A “training session” which is prearranged, attended by quorum, and included questions and recommendations to/from the board regarding official was found to be subject to the Open Meetings Act in Swindle v. Remington. 2019 WL 1090393 (Ala. 2019), reh'g denied, 2019 WL 2240140 (Ala. 2019)

    Also, the Alabama Open Meetings Act specifically excludes from coverage meetings of a governmental body with state or federal officials for the purpose of reporting or obtaining information or seeking support for issues of importance to the governmental body. Ala. Code § 36-25A-6(b)(2).

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  • Alaska

    The Alaska Supreme Court has consistently construed the OMA to strongly support the policy of openness expressed in the act's statement of purpose, AS 44.62.312. The court has ruled that the act applies to mere discussions and informational meetings as well as to decisional meetings. Brookwood Area Homeowners Association v. Anchorage, 702 P.2d 1317 (Alaska 1985). It has relied in its rulings on strong open meetings law precedent from other jurisdictions such as Florida and California. In Brookwood, e.g., it quoted with approval the following language from Sacramento Newspaper Guild v. Sacramento Cty. Bd. of Supervisors, 263 Cal. App. 2d 41, 69 Cal. Rptr. 480 (Cal. App. 1968):

    An informal conference or caucus permits crystallization of secret decisions to a point just short of ceremonial acceptance. There is rarely any purpose to a nonpublic pre-meeting conference except to conduct some part of the decisional process behind closed doors. Only by embracing the collective inquiry and discussion stages, as well as the ultimate step of official action, can an open meeting regulation frustrate these evasive devices. . . . Construed in the light of the Brown Act's objectives, the term "meeting" extends to informal sessions or conferences of the board members designed for the discussion of public business.

    Id. at 487 (emphasis added, footnote omitted), cited in Brookwood, 702 P.2d at 1322.

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  • Arizona

    “Information gathering” and “fact-finding” sessions may be covered by the OML if they would foreseeably aid in or require a decision by the body (i.e. constitute a “deliberation”). Ariz. Att’y Gen. Op. No. I96-012.

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  • Arkansas

    Because the FOIA applies to “informal” meetings, no official action need occur at a meeting to trigger the act. Accordingly, unofficial meetings to discuss matters which may come before the governing body and “work sessions” to gather information or consider recommendations are subject to the act. Mayor v. El Dorado Broad. Co., 260 Ark. 821, 544 S.W.2d 206 (1976); Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. Nos. 97-080, 96-328, 95-308, 95-098, 93-299, 91-225, 91-175, 80-016. But see Ark. Okla. Gas Corp. v. MacSteel Div. of Quanex, 370 Ark. 481, 262 S.W.3d 147 (2007) (county judge contacting members of quorum court to ensure they understood the next meeting’s agenda did not constitute a meeting).

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  • California

    Information-gathering and fact-finding sessions are not specifically exempted and are therefore subject to the requirements of the Bagley-Keene Act.

    A meeting is subject to the Brown Act where members are briefed about a matter, even though no action is taken. Frazer v. Dixon Unified Sch. Dist, 18 Cal. App. 4th 781, 796, 22 Cal. Rptr. 2d 641(1993) (session of school board where information was gathered from prospective contractors about qualifications is a meeting even where no commitment is made to retain person interviewed). Collective acquisition and exchange of facts prior to the ultimate decision is part of "deliberation," and deliberation by the legislative body of a local agency is subject to the Brown Act. Cal. Gov't Code § 54952.2. See also 216 Sutter Bay Ass'n v. County of Sutter, 58 Cal. App. 4th 860, 877, 68 Cal. Rptr. 2d 492 (1997); Sacramento Newspaper Guild v. Sacramento County Bd. of Supervisors, 263 Cal. App. 2d 41, 47-48, 69 Cal. Rptr. 480 (1968) (superseded by statute on the issue of attorney-client privilege).

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  • Colorado

    Open. Under Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-6-402(2)(a), all meetings attended by two or more members of any state board, commission, committee, or other body at which any public business is discussed or at which any formal action may be taken are declared public meetings open to the public at all times.

    Under Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-6-402(2)(b), all meetings of a quorum, or of three or more members of any local public body, whichever is fewer, at which any public business is discussed or at which any formal action may be taken are declared public meetings open to the public at all times, But see Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs, Costilla Cty. v. Costilla Cty. Conservancy Dist., 88 P.3d 1188 (Colo. 2004) (holding that for a meeting to be subject to Open Meetings Law, there must be a demonstrated link between the meeting and the policy-making powers of the public body; mere discussion of matters of public importance does not trigger the Open Meetings Law).

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  • Connecticut

    (This section is blank. See the point above.)

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  • Delaware

    There is no exemption for "information gathering" and "fact-finding" sessions or for meetings related to deliberations towards a decision. In fact, strategy or work sessions may be open meetings if "public business" is discussed. News-Journal Co. v. McLaughlin, 377 A.2d 358 (Del. Ch. 1977). "'Public business' means any matter over which the public body has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power." 29 Del. C. § 10002(e). But see 29 Del. C. § 10004(b)(4) (exempting certain strategy sessions involving collective bargaining or potential litigation where the open meeting could adversely affect the position of the public body).

    The Chancery Court, however, "has rejected the notion that the open meetings requirements of FOIA apply only 'to meetings where "formal action" [is] taken.'" Del. Op. Att'y Gen., 97-ib22 (Nov. 24, 1997) (citing News Journal Co. v. McLaughlin, 377 A.2d 358, 362 (Del. Ch. 1977)). Otherwise, "there would be no remedy to deter Board members from privately meeting for discussion, investigation or deliberation about public business as long as the Board reached no formal decision at that private meeting." Levy v. Bd. of Educ. of Cape Henlopen Sch. Dist., 1990 WL 154147, at *6 (Del. Ch. Oct. 1, 1990). Thus, the open meeting laws are said to cover "factfinding, deliberations and discussions, all of which surely influence the public entity's final decision." Del. Op. Att'y Gen., No. 00-ib07 (Apr. 28, 2000). FOIA "recognizes that policy decisions by public entities cannot realistically be understood as isolated instances of collective choice but are best understood as a decisional process based on inquiry, deliberation and consensus building." Id.

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  • District of Columbia

    The Open Meetings Act applies to information gathering sessions.  D.C. Code Ann. § 2-574(1).

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  • Florida

    The attorney general has opined that “information gathering” or “fact finding” sessions of a public board or commission are subject to the Sunshine Act. See Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 74-273 (1974) (“fact-finding” discussions between two or more city council members and a planning firm, are subject to the Sunshine Law).  However, two Florida appellate courts have concluded that where decision-making authority is not specifically delegated and board or committee members merely serve an advisory or fact-finding role, the Sunshine Law does not apply.  Molina v. City of Miami, 837 So. 2d 462 (Fla. 3d DCA 2003); Knox v. Dist. Sch. Bd. of Brevard, 821 So. 2d 311 (Fla. 5th DCA 2002).

    The Sunshine Law also applies to investigative inquiries of public bodies.  Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 74-84 (1974).  The fact that a meeting concerns alleged violations of laws or regulations does not remove it from the scope of the law. Canney v. Bd. of Pub. Instruction, 278 So. 2d 260 (Fla. 1973).  Moreover, under the holding of Berns, the fact that privileged or confidential information may or will be discussed during the course of the meeting does not serve to exempt such meeting from the scope of the Sunshine Law.

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  • Georgia

    “Information gathering” and “fact-finding” sessions are not generally exempt from the Act.  O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1(a)(3)(A).

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  • Hawaii

    Hawaii's Sunshine Law permits some investigations and information gathering sessions between board members to be conducted in private. Section 92-2.5(b) provides that two or more board members may be assigned to investigate a matter relating to official business of the board provided that (1) the number of board members is insufficient to constitute a quorum of the board, (2) the scope of the investigation and the scope of each member's authority are defined at a meeting, (3) all findings and recommendations are presented to the board at a meeting, and (4) the deliberation and decision-making on the matter investigated occurs only at a duly noticed meeting of the board that is held subsequent to the meeting at which the findings and recommendations of the investigation were presented to the board. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92-2.5 (2005). In addition, two board members may privately communicate or interact between themselves to gather information from each other about official board matters as long as no commitment to vote is made or sought. Id. § 92-2.5(a).

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  • Illinois

    The Act applies to official as well as unofficial or informal meetings where public business is discussed. See People ex rel. Difanis v. Barr, 83 Ill. 2d 191, 414 N.E.2d 731, 46 Ill. Dec. 678 (Ill. 1980). Thus, information-gathering or fact-finding sessions are covered.

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  • Indiana

    All official action must be taken in public meetings. See Ind. Code § 5-14-1.5-2(c); § 5-14-1.5-3(a).  “Official action” is defined as receiving information, deliberating, making recommendations, establishing policy, making decisions, and/or taking final action. Ind. Code § 5-14-1.5-2(d); see Simon v. City of Auburn v. Bd. of Zoning Appeals, 519 N.E.2d 205, 209 (Ind. Ct. App. 1988) (holding that the Board took “official action” when it received legal advice from its attorney); Turner v. Town of Speedway, 528 N.E.2d 858, 862 (Ind. Ct. App. 1988) (holding that an interview session in which were present was a meeting because they received information). Preliminary considerations may be conducted in private so long as the “final action” takes place at a public meeting. See Baker v. Town of Middlebury, 753 N.E.2d 67, 73 (Ind. App. 2001) (town council’s compiling rehire list in executive session, which effectively removed town marshal from his office, was lawful, where council subsequently voted to approve the list in a regular meeting that was open to the public, because the council’s “final action” consisted of its vote at the public meeting).

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  • Iowa

    "Activities of a governmental body's individual members to secure information to be reported and acted upon at an open meeting ordinarily do not violate sunshine statutes." Tel. Herald, Inc. v. City of Dubuque, 297 N.W.2d 529, 534 (Iowa 1980).

    Business sessions must be "within the scope of the governmental body's policy-making duties." Iowa Code § 21.2(2). "[P]urely ministerial" functions are excluded "when there is no discussion of policy or intent to avoid the purpose [of the statute]." Id. A ministerial act is one which does not involve an exercise of discretion or judgment. 79 Op. Att'y Gen. 164, 166 (May 16, 1979). "[G]athering for 'purely ministerial' purposes may include a situation in which members of a governmental body gather simply to receive information." 82 Op. Att'y Gen. 423, 426 (May 25, 1982). The ministerial gatherings of the open meetings act exception does not apply where policy matters are discussed.  Tel. Herald, Inc. v. City of Dubuque, 297 N.W.2d 529 (Iowa 1980).

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  • Kansas

    Title of gathering is irrelevant if the requirements of a meeting under K.S.A. 75-4317a are met.  Kan. Att’y Gen. Op. 90-47.  Work sessions of a city council are subject to the Act. Kan. Att’y Gen. Op. 1980-197. Fact finding board is subject to the Act, In re Univ. of Kansas Faculty, 2 Kan. App. 2d 416, 581 P.2d 817 (1978); Kan. Att’y Gen. Op. 1976-343.

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  • Kentucky

    The Open Meetings Act covers "informational or casual gatherings." Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.805(1).
    A casual gathering by fiscal court commissioners for informational purposes is an open meeting for which proper notice should have been given. 94-OMD-50.

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  • Louisiana

    A meeting is covered where a quorum of a public body convenes "to deliberate or act on a matter which the public body as an entity has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power."  La. Rev. Stat. Ann § 42:13(2). "Meeting" shall also mean the convening of a quorum of a public body by the public body or by another public official to receive information regarding a matter over which the public body has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power." La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42: 13(2) and (4); Op. Att'y Gen. 93-315 (Meeting of Lafayette City Council held to discuss "goal seeking" is a meeting "to receive information" covered by section 42:4.2(A)(1)); Op. Att'y Gen. 89-389 (auditors' exit conference with a quorum of members of parish school board is a meeting "to receive information" covered by section 4.2(A)(1).) The text of section 42:13(2) reflects a 1988 amendment that overruled a 1987 Court of Appeal decision holding that, although the Mayor of New Orleans had addressed a local park commission concerning patronage, governance, and related matters, because the commission members said little or nothing in response, there was no "deliberation," and thus no "meeting" within the purview of the Open Meeting Law. Common Cause v. Morial, 506 So.2d 167 (La. App. 4th Cir.), writ denied, 512 So.2d 458 (La. 1987).

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  • Maine

    Information gathering and fact-finding sessions must be undertaken in public. See Me. Op. Att'y Gen., 1980 WL 119341 (June 5, 1980).

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  • Maryland

    In 1991, emphasis was shifted away from what functions are covered by the Act to what functions are not within its scope. All public bodies are required to meet in open session unless they are performing administrative, judicial or quasi-judicial functions. § 3-103(a). This, in effect, leaves the legislative, quasi-legislative or advisory functions of public bodies subject to the Act. See §§ 3-101, 3-103.

    Legislative function is defined by the Act to include the process of: (1) approving, disapproving, enacting, amending, or repealing a law or other measure to set public policy; (2) approving or disapproving an appointment; (3) proposing or ratifying a constitution, constitutional amendment, charter or charter amendment. § 3-10102(f). Quasi-legislative function is defined adopting, disapproving, amending, or repealing a rule (including court rules), regulation or bylaw that has the force of law; or approving, disapproving or amending a budget or contract. § 3-101(j). Advisory function is "the study of a matter of public concern or the making of recommendations on the matter, under a delegation of responsibility by: (1) law; (2) the Governor or an official who is subject to the policy direction of the Governor; (3) the chief executive officer of a political subdivision of the State or an official who is subject to the policy direction of the chief executive officer; or (4) formal action by or for a public body. § 3-101(c). To the extent that information gathering falls within the scope of these definitions, then information gathering meetings would not be subject to the Act.

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  • Massachusetts

    Both “information-gathering” and “fact-finding” sessions, if attended by a quorum of a public body and relating to public business within that body’s jurisdiction, appear to be subject to the law.  See G.L. c. 30A, § 18 (definition of “deliberation”). (Prior to the 2010 revision of the Open Meeting Law, the status of such bodies was somewhat unclear.  See, e.g.,  Nigro v. Conservation Commission of Canton, 17 Mass. App. Ct. 433, 458 N.E.2d 1219 (1984).) An off-premises retreat attended by a quorum of the public body is probably subject to the law if its purpose is to address the body’s long-term vision and plans; but the same might not be true if the retreat were designed solely to resolve interpersonal issues among the group members.  The critical question to be answered in such cases is whether the public body is addressing “public business” that falls within the body’s jurisdiction.

    The statute does not define “jurisdiction,” nor does it set out a test for determining whether or not certain public business falls within the body’s jurisdiction.  The Attorney General, however, has supplied the following test: “[A]s a general rule, any matter of public business on which a quorum of the public body may make a decision or recommendation would be considered a matter within the jurisdiction of the public body.”  “Open Meeting Law Guide” (Att’y Gen’l, July 1, 2010), at 3.

    An explicit statutory exception exists for "on-site inspection of any project or program." G.L. c. 39, § 23A, definition of "meeting."

    The law does not apply to ". . .any chance meeting, or a social meeting at which matters relating to official business are discussed so long as no final agreement is reached. No chance meeting or social meeting shall be used in circumvention of the spirit or requirements of this section . . . ." G.L. c. 39, § 23B.

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  • Minnesota

    According to the Minnesota Supreme Court, scheduled, informational seminars about school board business, attended by the entire board, are subject to the Open Meeting Law. St. Cloud Newspapers Inc. v. District 742 Community Schools, 332 N.W.2d 1, 6 (Minn. 1983). However, in that same decision, the court held that "chance or social gatherings" are not subject to the Open Meeting Law, even if a quorum is present.

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  • Mississippi

    These are covered. Board of Trustees v. Mississippi Publishers Corp., 478 So. 2d 269, 278 (Miss. 1985). 'Work sessions" are also covered. Op. Att'y Gen. Aug. 22, 1984 to Franklin C. McKenzie Jr.  A tour of a renovated courthouse by three members of a board of supervisors would be a “meeting” under the Open Meetings Law.  Att’y Gen. Op. 2008-00446 (Sept. 12, 2008).

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  • Montana

    Except for privacy rights, the Montana open meetings law and Constitution do not differentiate on the basis of subject matter to be discussed in determining whether a meeting shall be open. Indeed, any time the body meets to hear, discuss, or act on any matter, the meeting is deemed to be open regardless of the matter to be discussed, Mont. Code Ann. § 2-3-202, except for certain specific exemptions. "Executive Sessions," for example, are subject to the law. See Goyen v. City of Troy, 276 Mont. 213, 915 P.2d 824 (1996).

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  • Nebraska

    If a quorum of the public body is present, the open meetings law applies to information gathering or fact-finding sessions. "Meeting means all regular, special, or called meetings, formal or informal, of any public body for the purposes of briefing, discussion of public business, formation of tentative policy, or the taking of any action of the public body." Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-1409(2).

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  • Nevada

    Private briefings among staff of a public body and a non-quorum of members of a public body are not meetings for purposes of the OML. Furthermore, the OML does not apply to most internal agency staff meetings where staff members make individual reports and recommendation to a superior.

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  • New Hampshire

    Such sessions are open to the public unless they address a matter that may be considered in nonpublic meeting. See RSA 91-A:3.

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  • New Jersey

    Since the law applies to both discussions and actions by a public body, information-gathering and fact-finding sessions must be open to the public and subject to the other requirements of OPMA. See Allan-Deane Corp. v. Bedminster Twp., 153 N.J. Super. 114, 379 A.2d 265 (App. Div. 1977); South Harrison Township Committee v. Board of Chosen Freeholders, 210 N.J. Super. 370, 510 A.2d 42 (App. Div. 1986.

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  • New Mexico

    The New Mexico Open Meetings Act broadly defines the nature of business subject to the law to include the development of personnel policy, rules, regulations, or ordinances, discussing public business, or taking any action within the authority of or the delegated authority of any board or public body.  NMSA 1978 § 10-15-1(B).

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  • New York

    The statute applies not only to formal or regular meetings, but to any gathering or meeting of a quorum of a public body for the purpose of transacting public business.  Matter of Haverstraw Owners Professionals & Entrepreneurs v. Town of Ramapo Zoning Bd. of Appeals, 151 A.D.3d 724, 56 N.Y.S.3d 347 (2d Dep’t 2017); Tri-Village Publishers v. St. Johnsville Bd. of Educ., 110 A.D.2d 932, 487 N.Y.S.2d 181 (3d Dep’t 1985). This includes “work sessions,” “agenda sessions,” “conferences,” “organizational meetings,” and the like, where a quorum is present, during which public business is discussed, even if no formal action is taken. Goodson Todman Enterprises v. City of Kingston Common Council, 153 A.D.2d 103, 550 N.Y.S.2d 157 (3d Dep’t 1990) (planned informal conference); Britt v. Cty. of Niagara, 82 A.D.2d 65, 440 N.Y.S.2d 790 (4th Dep’t 1981) (it is of no significance that formal action is not taken or that gatherings are denominated “work sessions” or “agenda sessions”); Orange Cty. Publications v. Council of Newburgh, 60 A.D.2d 409, 401 N.Y.S.2d 84 (2d Dep’t 1978), aff’d, 45 N.Y.2d 947, 383 N.E.2d 1157, 411 N.Y.S.2d 564 (1978) (it is the entire decision-making process that the Legislature intended to affect by the enactment of the OML); Kessel v. D’Amato, 97 Misc.2d 675, 412 N.Y.S.2d 303 (Sup. Ct. 1979) (dinner gathering between two open meetings did not violate OML; prearranged gathering to pick up work sheets for later meeting did not violate OML; but luncheon gathering at which staff reported to board was technical violation). Cf. Residents For a More Beautiful Port Washington v. Town of North Hempstead, 153 A.D.2d 727, 155 A.D.2d 521, 545 N.Y.S.2d 303 (2d Dep’t 1989), appeal denied, 75 N.Y.2d 703 (1990) (negotiations between parties’ attorneys was not meeting subject to OML); City of New Rochelle v. Public Service Commission of the State of New York, 150 A.D.2d 441, 541 N.Y.S.2d 49 (2d Dep’t 1989) (OML was not violated when Public Service Commissioners toured proposed routes prior to certifying site for placement of transition station, and a summary report of the tour was properly provided to interested parties); Cioci v. Mondello, No. 28261/90 (Sup. Ct., Nassau Cty., March 18, 1991) (regular gathering of supervisors for informal discussions prior to meeting does not violate the OML); Warren v. Giambra, 12 Misc.3d 650, 813 N.Y.S.2d 892 (Sup. Ct. 2006) (county legislators meeting with state legislators for an instructional session on restoring fiscal stability is “the official convening of a public body for the purpose of conducting public business” under OML); Finger Lakes Preservation Ass’n v. Town Bd. the Town of Italy, 25 Misc.3d 1115, 887 N.Y.S.2d 499 (Sup. Ct., Yates Cty., Oct. 8, 2010) (outing by three members of the board to visit a wind farm to study the effects of its noise was not an official convening because the proposed law was not discussed).

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  • North Dakota

    Subject to the law.

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  • Ohio

    All prearranged discussions of public business of a public body by a majority of its members are subject to the statute's requirement of open meetings. Ohio Rev. Code § 121.22(B)(2), (C). The statute does not distinguish between information gathering/fact finding and any other kind of prearranged discussion.

    Several courts of appeals have ruled that information gathering/fact finding does not qualify as "discussion," and therefore such prearranged sessions need not be open to the public. E.g., Springfield Local School Dist. Bd. of Edc'n v. Ohio Ass'n of Public School Employees, 106 Ohio App. 3d 855, 667 N.E.2d 458 (1995); Holeski v. Lawrence, 85 Ohio App. 3d 824, 621 N.E.2d 802 (1993); Piekutowski v. S. Cent. Ohio Educ. Serv. Ctr. Governing Bd., 161 Ohio App. 3d 372, 830 N.E.2d 423 (Adams 2005) (commenting that deliberations involve a "decisional analysis," and ultimately concluding that a school board held unlawful deliberations).

    The Ohio Supreme Court has not addressed the issue.

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  • Oklahoma

    Informal gatherings or fact-finding sessions are prohibited. 25 O.S. § 306.  Informal gatherings among a majority of the members of a public body on any course of action or to vote on any matter is prohibited.  In re Appeal of the Order Declaring Annexation Dated June 28, 1978, 1981 OK CIV APP 57, 637 P.2d 1270 (act covers not only formal meetings but entire decision-making process).   “The legislative intent is unmistakable.  25 O.S. § 306 is an absolute prohibition upon any attempt to circumvent the Open Meeting Act and obtain a consensus upon an item of business by informal meetings outside a public meeting.”  1981 OK AG 69.

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  • Oregon

    If the meeting is for the purpose of gathering information to serve as a basis for a subsequent decision, the Public Meetings Law applies. 38 Op. Atty. Gen. 1471 (1977). On-site inspections of projects or programs and attendance at conventions are specifically excluded from the definition of a “meeting” under ORS 192.610(5).

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  • Pennsylvania

    Whether “information” or “fact-gathering” sessions must be open is an unresolved question. Arguably, fact-gathering is encompassed within “the preparation . . . of law, policy or regulations.” See, e.g., Times Leader v. Dallas Sch. Dist., 49 D. & C. 3d 329, 332 (Luzeme Cty. Ct. C.P. 1988) (finding that an “informational” session of a school board is not a “conference” and therefore cannot be closed under that exception to the Act); but see Taylor v. Borough Council Emmaus, 721 A.2d 388 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1998) (holding that the taking of witness testimony qualifies as neither “official action” nor “deliberation” as those terms are used in the Act). However, the definition of “deliberation” in the Act is vague enough to allow an argument that it excepts the early stages of legislating or policymaking. Other decisions have attempted to draw a distinction between “official” action or deliberations and pre-meeting discussions not covered by the Act. See, e.g., Ackerman v. Upper Mt. Bethel Twp., 567 A.2d 1116 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1989) (holding that there was no “official action” taken when no votes, decisions, or policy recommendations were produced); Sunset Dev., Inc. v. Bd. of Supervisors of E. Pikeland Twp., 600 A.2d 641 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1991) (where the court noted that the Board of Supervisors did not violate the Sunshine Act because the Board’s written decision did not involve official action or deliberation; only oral comments would have required an open meeting, and such oral comments were not the subject of the appeal.); see also Piecknick v. S. Strabane Twp. Zoning Hearing Bd., 607 A.2d 829 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1992).

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  • Rhode Island

    The public body must be convening to “discuss and/or act upon a matter over which the public body has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power. R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-2(1).  Moreover, the Rhode Island Supreme Court has held that the provisions of the OML do not apply when no public business was transacted at the gathering.  See, e.g., Fischer v. Zoning Bd. of Town of Charlestown, 723 A.2d 294 (R.I. 1999).

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  • South Carolina

    The label given to a meeting is of no consequence so long as a quorum is present.

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  • South Dakota

    These sessions are subject to the law.

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  • Tennessee

    Meetings for "information gathering" and "fact-finding" are open except for on-site inspections of any project or program. T.C.A. § 8-44-102(C).

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  • Texas

    Section 551.001(4) provides that the Act applies to certain gatherings "at which the members receive information from, give information to, ask questions of, or receive questions from a third person, including an employee of the governmental body, about the public business or public policy over which the governmental body has supervision or control." See, e.g. Op. Tex. Att’y Gen. No. GA-0098 (2003) ("An informational meeting of the Sulphur River Basin Authority (the 'Authority') that is open only to the Authority's invitees, including members of the press and community leaders, contravenes the Open Meetings Act if a quorum of members of the Authority is present or otherwise participates in the deliberations."); Bexar Medina Atacosa Water Dist. v. Bexar Medina Atacosa Landowners' Ass'n, 25 S.W.3d 459, 461-62 (Tex. App. - San Antonio 1999, pet. denied) (finding that an informational gathering that involved discussion and consideration was subject to the Open Meetings Act).

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  • Utah

    “Information-gathering” and “fact-finding” sessions are subject to the Open Meetings Act. See Utah Code § 52-4-103(3), (6)(a); id. § 52-4-201.

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  • Vermont

    The Open Meeting Law defines a meeting as “a gathering of a quorum of the members of a public body for the purpose of discussing the business of the public body or for the purpose of taking action.”  1 V.S.A. § 310(3)(A).  The business of the public body is defined as “the public body’s governmental functions, including any matter over which the public body has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power.”  1 V.S.A. § 310(1).  Thus, there is no substantive limitation on or definition of the types of business that may be conducted by the board or body in public, except, again, for the provisions for executive session that expressly define those subject matters that may (but are not required to) be discussed in private meetings.  The Vermont Supreme Court recently clarified that “gathering for the purpose of ‘discussing the business of the public body,’ 1 V.S.A. § 310(2), implies unilateral committee action — a committee gathering to manage its own affairs.”  Negotiations Comm. of Caledonia Cent. Supervisory Union v. Caledonia Cent. Educ. Ass’n, 2018 VT 18, ¶ 17, 184 A.3d 236, 243 (Vt. 2018).

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  • Virginia

    Work sessions fall within the definition of “meetings.” Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3701.. However, one court opinion suggests that an interagency "information gathering" session was not a meeting within the scope of this section. Nageotte v. Board of Supervisors, 223 Va. 259, 269, 288 S.E.2d 423 (1982); but see Little v. Virginia Retirement Sys., 28 Va. Cir. 411, 433 (Va. Cir. Ct. 1992) ("Unlike a meeting between two separate and distinct entities, with separate and distinct areas of responsibility, a meeting involving two inextricably linked entities cannot be said to involve the business of only one of those entities.").

    Public Gatherings: Where two city employees and three members of City Council were separately invited to a gathering at a street intersection to raise awareness over traffic concerns, no meeting within the meaning of the VFOIA took place. Beck v. Shelton, 267 Va. 482, 493-94, 593 S.E.2d 195, 200-01 (2004). Public gatherings of officials that do not involve the discussion or transaction of public business are carved out of the definition of “meetings.” Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3701.

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  • West Virginia

    There is no specific provision in the Act excluding meetings involving information gathering or fact-finding. However, in defining the word "meetings," the statute specifically excludes

    "(A) any meeting for the purpose of making an adjudicatory decision in any quasi-judicial, administrative or court of claims proceeding, (B) any on-site inspection of any project or program, (C) any political party caucus," (D) General discussions among members of a governing body on issues of interest to the public when held in a planned or unplanned social, educational, training, informal, ceremonial or similar setting, without intent to conduct public business even if a quorum is present and public business is discussed but there is no intention for the discussion to lead to an official action; or (E) Discussions by members of a governing body on logistical and procedural methods to schedule and regulate a meeting.

    W. Va. Code § 6-9A-2(4).

    Whether these exemptions would apply would depend on the facts. McComas indicates that information gathering and fact-finding are important precursors to decision making, and such meetings may be subject to the Open Meetings Act. McComas, 197 W. Va. 88, 475 S.E.2d 280 (1996). Even in the case of an adjudicatory hearing conducted by quasi-judicial agencies, under the State Bar and Board of Medicine decisions there is a constitutional right of access to "all reports, records, and non-deliberative materials introduced at such hearings, including the record of the final action taken." Daily Gazette v. W. Va. Board of Medicine, 352 S.E.2d at 70, quoting Daily Gazette v. W. Va. State Bar, Syl. Pt. 5, 176 W. Va. 550, 326 S.E.2d 705 (1984).

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  • Wisconsin

    Gatherings for the purpose of obtaining information with a view toward future action are meetings. State ex rel. Hodge v. Village of Turtle Lake, 180 Wis. 2d 62, 508 N.W.2d 603 (1993); State v. Swanson, 92 Wis. 2d 310, 284 N.W.2d 655 (1979).

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