The Act's coverage should be construed broadly and its exceptions narrowly in order to effectuate its purpose of protecting the public from meetings held behind closed doors. See, e.g., Kilgore v. R.W. Page Corp., 261 Ga. 410, 405 S.E.2d 655 (1991).
The statute provides for specific exemptions. The exceptions are not to be used as a subterfuge to retreat from open to executive session. Puglisi v. School Committee of Whitman, 11 Mass. App. Ct. 142, 414 N.E.2d 613) (1981) (School committee holding public hearing on discipline of school principal went into "sham" executive session to discuss character and reputation of superintendent of school system. In fact, executive session let superintendent get in private "last word" on principal. Principal awarded back pay). See District Attorney for Northwestern Dist. v. Board of Selectmen of Sunderland, 11 Mass. App. Ct. 663, 418 N.E.2d 642, 644 (1981). At least in some circumstances, a subsequent open meeting on the same subject may in effect cure an improperly closed meeting. Pearson v. Board of Selectmen of Longmeadow, 49 Mass. App. Ct. 119, 726 N.E.2d 980 (2000); Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks, Lodge No. 65 v. Planning Board of Lawrence, 403 Mass. 531, 557-8, 531 N.E.2d 1233, 1249-50 (1988).
Executive sessions are discretionary with the governmental body, subject to the rights of affected individuals who may request an open meeting. G.L. c. 39, § 23B. Although executive sessions are not mandatory, at least one case has treated a failure to negotiate in executive session as a failure to negotiate in good faith. Board of Selectmen of Marion v. Labor Relations Commission, 7 Mass. App. Ct. 360, 388 N.E.2d 302 (1979) (finding that existence of exception for collective bargaining showed that executive session served a purpose, and the refusal to hold closed session damaged the bargaining process and could be seen as a failure to negotiate in good faith).
The OML exempts entirely from its coverage certain proceedings and deliberations. It also delineates specified instances in which executive sessions are allowed during the course of meetings that are otherwise required to be open to the public. Exemptions and executive sessions are discussed separately below.