Please be advised that contacting Ruder Ware by e-mail does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you contact the firm by e-mail with respect to a matter where the firm does not already represent you, any information which you disclose to us may not be regarded as privileged or confidential.


Accept   Cancel

Please be advised that contacting Ruder Ware by e-mail does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you contact the firm by e-mail with respect to a matter where the firm does not already represent you, any information which you disclose to us may not be regarded as privileged or confidential.


Accept   Cancel

PAL Login

linkedin.jpgyoutube.jpgvimeo.jpgtwitter_off.png View Ruder Ware

Local Governments and School Districts Blog

Closed Session Agendas - How Much Detail?

Authored by Dean R. Dietrich
Posted on May 20, 2014
Filed under Local Governments and School Districts

There is a great deal of debate how much detail you must use on the open meeting agenda when the local government board is convening into closed session. It is clear the agenda must state what section of the Open Meetings Law is being used as the exception to allow a closed meeting, and there must be a statement, with some specificity, of the type to be discussed in the closed session. It is also clear that a local government body cannot simply state the number of the state statute being used to go into closed session and not indicate with more detail the topic to be discussed in the closed session. What is not clear is the amount of detail that must be used when preparing an agenda for a closed session meeting.

It is commonly recognized that you must state in the meeting notice and in the motion to go into closed session, the statutory reference by number that is being relied upon to adjourn into closed session. We believe that the more appropriate practice is to state the number of the state statute and the actual language of the state statute as part of the meeting notice for going into a closed session meeting. While this level of detail may not be required by the statutes, it is the most effective way to communicate to the public the reason for going into the closed session and the rationale that is relied upon for adjourning into closed session.

It is also necessary to identify with some degree of specificity the item that will be discussed in the closed session. You do not have to list names of individuals that will be talked about in the closed session, but you have to convey enough information so the public knows what will be talked about in the closed session. The exact language will, of course, depend upon the exact topic that you anticipate discussing and how much need there is for confidentiality. For example, a local government board that is adjourning into closed session to discuss the terms of a development agreement with a company that is proposing to locate in the municipality, has to indicate there is a discussion about a development agreement but would not have to name the company that the development agreement would apply to.

There is a fine line between notifying the public of the purpose for the closed session meeting and the need to retain confidentiality because of the topic of the closed session. Local governments would be well-served to provide more detail about the statutory exception relied upon for adjourning into closed session and also provide some detail about the topic to be discussed in closed session without adversely affecting the need for confidentiality. Closed session agenda items should be reviewed closely with legal counsel to ensure compliance with the statutory requirements.