We know of no authority under state law to close a meeting that is otherwise due to be open simply because the meeting deals with gifts, trusts, and honorary degrees, except to the extent the discussion falls within the reputation, character, and competence exception to the Alabama Open Meetings Act. Ala. Code § 36-25A-7(a)(1) et seq.; see also Auburn Univ. v. The Advertiser Co. d/b/a The Montgomery Advertiser, 867 So. 2d 293 (Ala. 2003) (holding that discussion of awarding honorary degree was within "character and good name" exception of former open meetings law).
Because these matters are not exempted by statute, the meeting must be open to the public. However, the FOIA’s open meetings requirement generally applies only to a “governing body” of an entity subject to the act. Thus, if a state university planned to award an honorary degree, a meeting of administrators to consider the issue and make a recommendation to the university president would not be open to the public, since the administrators do not constitute a governing body.
Unless authorized by a federal statute or other state statute, see Ind. Code § 5-14-1.5-1; § 5-14-1.5-6.1(b)(7), or unless the meeting fits into the general categories of executive sessions in Ind. Code § 5-14-1.5-6.1(b), meetings regarding gifts, trusts, and honorary degrees must be open to the public. Note that the identity of a donor in a record may be exempt from the Access to Public Records Act. Ind. Code § 5-14-1.5-1(b)(15).
No provision of the open meetings statute exempts discussion of gifts, trusts and honorary degrees from public attendance. Iowa Code chapter 68B requires the preparation of disclosure reports. See Iowa Code § 68B.2 (“‘Public disclosure’ means a written report filed by a person as required by this chapter or required by rules adopted and issued pursuant to this chapter.”); Iowa Code § 68B.22 (noting reporting requirements for specific gifts); Iowa Code § 68B.35A (requiring personal financial disclosure filed with the chief clerk of the house or the secretary of the senate to be recorded on the legislative internet site); Iowa Code § 68B.39 (authorizing the supreme court to prescribe rules relating to the receipt or acceptance of gifts financial disclosure).
Public bodies may meet in closed session to “consider and authorize” the acceptance of certain gifts, and to choose the recipients of honors, awards, honorary degrees, and the like. G.S. § 143-318.11(a)(2).
Section 551.073 permits meetings to be closed regarding a “negotiated contract for a prospective gift or donation to the state or the governmental body if deliberation in an open meeting would have a detrimental effect on the position of the governmental body in negotiations with a third person.”
The Open Meetings Act contains no provision that would allow meetings concerning these topics to be closed. However, the Government Records Access and Management Act (discussed in the Open Records portion of this outline) classifies as protected the names of the donors to public institutions of higher education, if so requested. Utah Code § 63G-2-305(37).
Discussion by boards of visitors of state institutions of higher education, of matters relating to gifts, bequests and fundraising activities, and grants or contracts for services or work to be performed by such institution may be closed. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3711.A.9.
Discussion by boards of trustees of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Virginia Museum of Natural History, the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation and the Science Museum of Virginia may be closed when considering matters relating to specific gifts, bequests, and grants. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3711.A.10.
Discussion of honorary degrees or special awards may be closed. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3711.A.11.