Open meetings and executive session, it is clear

By PAT BROWN,

C redit to the school board attorney Wesla Leach, who is making an effort to steer the school board in the right direction regarding executive session and the use thereof.  Some other boards could also use a little brushing up on the proper use of executive session. 

  Information from the Mississippi Attorney General’s office makes plain the proper procedure and what qualifies as “executive session” material. 

  “Executive Session: Public Body may (but is not required to) go into executive session to discuss the following:

*personnel matters

*litigation-prospective or actual

*security personnel, plans or devices

*investigations of alleged misconduct or violations of law\

*emergency posing immediate or irrevocable harm to persons or property

*prospective purchases, sale or lease of lands

*preparation of admission tests for certain professions

*line item budget that may affect the termination of an employee

*certain school board discussions with individual students, parents or teachers

*Legislature may go into executive session at any time.”

  First, then, in order to go into executive session a motion must be made to determine whether the topic warrants executive session.  The meeting is then closed and the board meets to determine if the reason meets the criteria given above.  If it does, the meeting then reopens  and the board presents its findings as to whether the meeting qualifies for executive session.  The only item that may be discussed is that for which the meeting is called.  No other topics are allowed. 

  Personnel matters must be related to job performance, character, professional competence, physical or mental health of a specific person holding a specific position, which should be identified.

  Strategy sessions or negotiations with respect to prospective litigation may qualify for executive session, but not the fact that someone may be facing a lawsuit. 

   However, simply stating that “We may need to talk about this in executive session” does not qualify for an executive session under any circumstances. 

   The case of Cooper vs.  Adams County Board of Supervisors case number M-09-005 clearly states that “Personnel” is not a reason for entering into executive session. 

  According to Howell vs. Water Valley Board of Aldermen case number  M-09-006, selecting a board attorney only qualifies for an executive session when in reference to “job performance, character and professional competence” of the attorney.

  We still have a long way to go in the public’s right to know.