Attorney General tries to clarify new open meetings law

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued an opinion Monday on how changes approved in the Kansas Open Meetings Act by the 2017 Legislature impact procedures for executive sessions. Here is a link to the opinion. 

In response to questions from the Sedgwick County counselor, the opinion said that each executive session must be concerned with only one of the “justifications” under state law that allow closed session. However, each session may include multiple “subjects” under that justification. 

For example, a justification could be to discuss teacher negotiations. It is permissible to discuss multiple subjects covered by collective bargaining in that session. However, if the board wants to discuss personnel matters under the exception for non-elected personnel, a separate session would have to be conducted. 

As amended last session, the open meetings act requires motions to go into executive session include both the justification and a description of the subjects to be discussed. That description of the subject or subjects to be discussed must be more than a generic or vague summary, or a list of the subject or subjects to be discussed. However, the opinion states that the description does not need to be so detailed “that it negates the usefulness of a closed or executive meeting.” 

The opinion further notes that the determination of whether this description meets the requirements of the new law must be made on a case-by-case basis. 

The opinion also indicates that the motion to go into executive session must be recorded in its entirety in the minutes. 

The KASB legal department will provide a more detailed description and guidance on the new opinion in future publications and workshops. 

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