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

E-mail Communication to Board Members Creates Meeting?

Authored by Kevin J.T. Terry
Posted on May 19, 2016
Filed under Local Governments and School Districts

At our recent Local Government Seminar, a question was asked as to whether other states are aggressively enforcing open meeting or public meeting laws involving local governments.  A recent decision by an Appellate Court in Ohio shows that other states are actively enforcing open meeting or “sunshine” laws in their jurisdictions.

In this case, a School Board member sent an e-mail to all other Board members advocating for action on a particular policy being considered by the School Board at an upcoming meeting.  It was determined that this e-mail communication sent to all other Board members constituted an open meeting of the School Board even though the other Board members did not specifically react or communicate their position in response to the e-mail communication from the one Board member.  The e-mail communication was between four Board members and the School Superintendent and was held to be a discussion of public business because the discussion involved a majority of the public body’s members.  The Court held that the conduct of public business could only be held in a meeting which meant a face-to-face meeting amongst the majority of the School Board members.  It was therefore concluded that this communication about a School Board policy which involved a majority of the Board members constituted a discussion of public business that was not held in a face-to-face format.

One can easily see that this is an aggressive enforcement of the Open Meeting Law in Ohio.  It is likely that a violation of the Wisconsin Open Meeting Law would occur if an e-mail is sent by one Board member to a majority of the Board members and then there is an interactive response to that e-mail communication (typically using the reply to all function) such that a “walking quorum” of Board members would have occurred.  That is why elected officials in Wisconsin must be very careful about e-mail communication with other Board members and ensure that there is not a continued exchange of discussion and communication such that a meeting is taking place without proper notice and without proper access for the public.