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Voting in, or out of, Executive Session

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I recently attended a meeting that, for perfectly good reasons and by majority vote, went into Executive Session to consider a "sticky" issue, an issue that, by its nature, had "public" consequences, outside of the meeting, and thus was not covered by any secrecy requirements. (The discussion of the motion remains secret, of course.)

When the time came to vote, the chair insisted that the assembly go out of ExecSess to vote, indeed asserting that it was not proper to vote on any issues when under the Session rules.

Is there any backup for this requirement in RONR?  I could find none; indeed the paragraph on p. 96, lines 9-14 seems to imply that voting in ExecSess is perfectly OK, but does not directly say so. I couldn't find any (other) direct statement that in-session voting was kosher, either.  Are there any?

I understand that some public bodies require by law that "final" votes on issues are required to be taken after the ExecSecc is ended, but such a law didn't apply at the meeting I attended.  Perhaps that is what the chair had in mind, thinking the law did apply.

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36 minutes ago, jstackpo said:

I recently attended a meeting that, for perfectly good reasons and by majority vote, went into Executive Session to consider a "sticky" issue, an issue that, by its nature, had "public" consequences, outside of the meeting, and thus was not covered by any secrecy requirements. (The discussion of the motion remains secret, of course.)

When the time came to vote, the chair insisted that the assembly go out of ExecSess to vote, indeed asserting that it was not proper to vote on any issues when under the Session rules.

Is there any backup for this requirement in RONR?  I could find none; indeed the paragraph on p. 96, lines 9-14 seems to imply that voting in ExecSess is perfectly OK, but does not directly say so. I couldn't find any (other) direct statement that in-session voting was kosher, either.  Are there any?

I understand that some public bodies require by law that "final" votes on issues are required to be taken after the ExecSecc is ended, but such a law didn't apply at the meeting I attended.  Perhaps that is what the chair had in mind, thinking the law did apply.

No.

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4 hours ago, jstackpo said:

When the time came to vote, the chair insisted that the assembly go out of ExecSess to vote, indeed asserting that it was not proper to vote on any issues when under the Session rules.

Is there any backup for this requirement in RONR?

As Mr. Honemann stated in his response immediately above, there is no such requirement in RONR.  I suspect the chair was thinking of Open Meetings laws (sunshine laws) as applied to public bodies and which frequently require that all votes of public bodies such as city councils and school boards be taken on the record in open session.   Unless this is a public body of some sort or otherwise subject to such a state law provision, or has its own rule on the subject, votes may indeed be taken in executive session.

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8 hours ago, jstackpo said:

I recently attended a meeting that, for perfectly good reasons and by majority vote, went into Executive Session to consider a "sticky" issue, an issue that, by its nature, had "public" consequences, outside of the meeting, and thus was not covered by any secrecy requirements. (The discussion of the motion remains secret, of course.)

When the time came to vote, the chair insisted that the assembly go out of ExecSess to vote, indeed asserting that it was not proper to vote on any issues when under the Session rules.

Is there any backup for this requirement in RONR?  I could find none; indeed the paragraph on p. 96, lines 9-14 seems to imply that voting in ExecSess is perfectly OK, but does not directly say so. I couldn't find any (other) direct statement that in-session voting was kosher, either.  Are there any?

I understand that some public bodies require by law that "final" votes on issues are required to be taken after the ExecSecc is ended, but such a law didn't apply at the meeting I attended.  Perhaps that is what the chair had in mind, thinking the law did apply.

There are no such requirements in RONR, but there are in many Sunshine Laws, which, with some rare exceptions, require all votes to be in public and by the yeas and nays. 

What was or was not said or considered in "exec" remains confidential, but if a public body is going to decide something that has any effect, the fact of it will presumably be discovered soon enough.  And the constituency deserves to know which elected officials voted which way.  For example, if a school board is firing an administrator, it can't be kept secret for long, as he or she will presumably stop showing up for work, but the reasons aren't necessary a matter of public information.

So I think you're right about where this comes from, and I've run into this misinformation too. 

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17 minutes ago, Gary Novosielski said:

Sunshine Laws, which, with some rare exceptions, require all votes to be in public and by the yeas and nays. 

Under Sunshine laws you are familiar with, do all votes in ExecSess on substantial matters have to be cast in public view, or only the "Final" ("You're fired") vote. 

Example  (a little far fetched):  if the original motion to fire your school administrator included a preamble listing the administrator's various sins, would amendments to that preamble have to be voted on in public?  Or just the end product, the adoption of the main motion, as it was amended in ExecSess?

Edited by jstackpo
Spelling of "you're"

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2 hours ago, jstackpo said:

Under Sunshine laws you are familiar with, do all votes in ExecSess on substantial matters have to be cast in public view, or only the "Final" ("You're fired") vote. 

Example  (a little far fetched):  if the original motion to fire your school administrator included a preamble listing the administrator's various sins, would amendments to that preamble have to be voted on in public?  Or just the end product, the adoption of the main motion, as it was amended in ExecSess?

I would say that this is a legal question.  It may be necessary to come out of a motion for a vote and immediately return to executive session. 

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23 hours ago, jstackpo said:

Under Sunshine laws you are familiar with, do all votes in ExecSess on substantial matters have to be cast in public view, or only the "Final" ("You're fired") vote. 

Example  (a little far fetched):  if the original motion to fire your school administrator included a preamble listing the administrator's various sins, would amendments to that preamble have to be voted on in public?  Or just the end product, the adoption of the main motion, as it was amended in ExecSess?

I am not a lawyer, but if I remember correctly, only the motion having the final effect would be made in public. Nearly all items in exec were considered informally, with amendments typically made by general consent, and it would be highly unlikely for a preamble to exist at all for confidential matters..  The reasons for firing someone would not be stated at all in the resolution, even if it had been in all the papers.

So the minutes of executive session were usually brief, e.g. "The board discussed a matter of student discipline."  Very often there was no motion arising out of the matter (perhaps one brought up by the Superintendent) since, as long as the Board concurred with the way it was being handled, there was no need for action.  Often these sessions were primarily to inform the board of matters that were confidential, but for information only.  

There was an exception in the case of bullying accusations, which by statute required board action on each one, even if the board approved of the existing disposition..  Those were discussed in exec, and placed on the next public meeting's agenda.  But they were not informative. It would say something like: "RESOLVED, that the Anytown Board of Education approves of the actions taken by the Superintendent and the information provided to the Parents/Guardian in the matter labeled S-2019-0008, details on file in the office of the Secretary." 

As always, your mileage may vary.

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On 10/19/2019 at 11:10 PM, Shmuel Gerber said:

Hey, check this out. This question has come up before. 

http://www.robertsrules.com/faq.html#17

🙂

 

On 10/20/2019 at 5:36 PM, Gary Novosielski said:

Well, yes, but this particular question was about how it is affected by Sunshine Laws.

Later on he did, but in his initial post he said they didn't apply.

If you're not content with just FAQ #17 (I don't know why anyone wouldn't be), see RONR (11th ed.), pp. 229-230 where the example specifically states the reason for entering into executive session is to consider a resolution.

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10 hours ago, George Mervosh said:

If you're not content with just FAQ #17 (I don't know why anyone wouldn't be), see RONR (11th ed.), pp. 229-230 where the example specifically states the reason for entering into executive session is to consider a resolution.

I am the very model of contentment.

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