Under certain circumstances under state law, meetings of public bodies are allowed to take place behind closed doors. Now one state lawmaker is looking to provide another reason why public officials can meet in a closed, executive session.
State Rep. Nancy Jenkins wants to authorize government bodies to hold executive sessions to consider the sale of property up until a contract is signed. As the law currently stands, executive sessions can be held to discuss a property purchase or lease, in addition to a variety of other matters, including pending litigation, as well as union negotiations.
Staff in Jenkins’ (R-Clayton) office said a local government administrator from her Lenawee County district approached the first-term lawmaker about the matter.
Although there have not yet been hearings in the state House Oversight, Reform, and Ethics Committee on the proposal, House Bill 5626, lawmakers have been dealing with a number of “big issues” prior to the summer legislative recess that have put many issues on the back burner for the time being, according to a staff member in Jenkins’ office.
Lisa McGraw, the public affairs manager for the Michigan Press Association, said the association is “always concerned” when the state Legislature considers adding more exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act or when additional reasons for closed meetings are considered for inclusion in the Open Meetings Act, which are two policy changes she said the MPA generally finds “disconcerting.”
The Open Meetings Act allows public bodies to meet behind closed doors for a variety of reasons, including to discuss the dismissal, suspension, or disciplining of a public employee or student; for strategy and negotiation sessions on labor contracts; to consider the purchase or lease of property; to discuss pending litigation; and to review the contents of an application for employment or appointment to public office if the candidate requests a private session, among a variety of others.
Political caucuses of the state Legislature are also allowed to meet in closed session.