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Moving into Executive Session


Lori Lukinuk

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If a Board meeting, by law, is required to be held in public except for specific regulated purposes, can it start the meeting in executive session or must it start in public, then move into executive session by a majority vote to deal with the allowed purpose?  Does RONR address this anywhere? RONR 9:24 states, "A meeting enters into executive session only when required by rule or established custom, or upon the adoption of a motion to do so."  The words "enters into" seem to suggest to me that the meeting must start in public first then enter into executive session.

This may be an easy question and I am overthinking it. 

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On 3/6/2023 at 10:30 AM, Lori Lukinuk said:

If a Board meeting, by law, is required to be held in public except for specific regulated purposes, can it start the meeting in executive session or must it start in public, then move into executive session by a majority vote to deal with the allowed purpose?  Does RONR address this anywhere? RONR 9:24 states, "A meeting enters into executive session only when required by rule or established custom, or upon the adoption of a motion to do so."  The words "enters into" seem to suggest to me that the meeting must start in public first then enter into executive session.

This may be an easy question and I am overthinking it. 

The attorney for this board should be consulted, but I can't see why, at least under the rules in RONR, the meeting cannot be opened and immediately enter into executive session before they move to the public portion of the meeting.  It is quite commonly done in my neck of the woods, but again, the board's attorney should be consulted to be sure they are in compliance with any applicable procedural rules that directly apply to them.

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Thank you George. It's actually the attorney who asked me if RONR covers this. So from his perspective there are no applicable rule restricting starting in executive session. That being said he is wondering if RONR, as their parliamentary authority, covers this. He is looking for such a rule in RONR. You say "but I can't see why, at least from RONR, the meeting cannot be opened and immediately enter into executive session ..." That's my thoughts also. Do to the requirement for their meeting to be held in public, my feeling is to just call the meeting to order, it will be in public at this point, then have a motion to enter into executive session and be done with it. Simple and easy.  In saying that though, is there any rule in RONR that allows you to not have to "enter into executive session" but rather call the meeting to order and automatically be in executive session.  I hope this is making sense. 

 

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On 3/6/2023 at 11:19 AM, Lori Lukinuk said:

Thank you George. It's actually the attorney who asked me if RONR covers this. So from his perspective there are no applicable rule restricting starting in executive session. That being said he is wondering if RONR, as their parliamentary authority, covers this. He is looking for such a rule in RONR. You say "but I can't see why, at least from RONR, the meeting cannot be opened and immediately enter into executive session ..." That's my thoughts also. Do to the requirement for their meeting to be held in public, my feeling is to just call the meeting to order, it will be in public at this point, then have a motion to enter into executive session and be done with it. Simple and easy.  In saying that though, is there any rule in RONR that allows you to not have to "enter into executive session" but rather call the meeting to order and automatically be in executive session.  I hope this is making sense. 

 

RONR notes in 9:24 that - "A meeting enters into executive session only when required by rule or established custom, or upon the adoption of a motion to do so."  So if the first two methods (rule or established custom) are not applicable to this board, a motion is going to be necessary.

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On 3/6/2023 at 10:30 AM, Lori Lukinuk said:

If a Board meeting, by law, is required to be held in public except for specific regulated purposes, can it start the meeting in executive session or must it start in public, then move into executive session by a majority vote to deal with the allowed purpose?  Does RONR address this anywhere? RONR 9:24 states, "A meeting enters into executive session only when required by rule or established custom, or upon the adoption of a motion to do so."  The words "enters into" seem to suggest to me that the meeting must start in public first then enter into executive session.

This may be an easy question and I am overthinking it. 

It may not be that easy. 

The problem is not likely to be RONR, but rather the Sunshine Laws that govern your board.  I'm surprised the lawyer is looking to RONR for an answer, since this and similar laws are among those most likely to supersede the rules in RONR.

Since I'm not a lawyer it's likely he knows something I don't, but In my former home state, the regulations said that when moving into executive session, there were a specific handful of permissible reasons why this could be done, and this rule provided further that the reason(s) in this particular instance had to be stated in the motion to "go into 'exec'".  If there is no such motion made in public, that looks very much like a violation of that rule.

 

 

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I believe the meeting should be opened in a public session and then immediately a motion made and a vote taken to go into executive session. This can, of course, be done by unanimous consent by the chair simply asking: “Is there any objection to going into executive session to consider XYZ? Hearing no objection, we are in executive session”.

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I am in agreement with Mr. Mervosh and others that, even so far as RONR is concerned, the meeting would begin in public session unless there is some "rule or established custom" suggesting otherwise, which I understand not to be the case.

Given that this is a public body, I am rather surprised to hear that this is not regulated by applicable law or by the organization's own rules. It may be prudent for the organization to adopt rules on this matter for the future.

On 3/6/2023 at 10:31 AM, Gary Novosielski said:

Since I'm not a lawyer it's likely he knows something I don't, but In my former home state, the regulations said that when moving into executive session, there were a specific handful of permissible reasons why this could be done, and this rule provided further that the reason(s) in this particular instance had to be stated in the motion to "go into 'exec'".  If there is no such motion made in public, that looks very much like a violation of that rule.

The practice is similar in my own state, but certainly the practices in another state (let alone another country - I believe Ms. Lukinuk is based in Canada) may well be different.

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On 3/7/2023 at 10:04 AM, Josh Martin said:

I am in agreement with Mr. Mervosh and others that, even so far as RONR is concerned, the meeting would begin in public session unless there is some "rule or established custom" suggesting otherwise, which I understand not to be the case.

Given that this is a public body, I am rather surprised to hear that this is not regulated by applicable law or by the organization's own rules. It may be prudent for the organization to adopt rules on this matter for the future.

The practice is similar in my own state, but certainly the practices in another state (let alone another country - I believe Ms. Lukinuk is based in Canada) may well be different.

I fully agree.

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