Thursday, February 6, 2014

Research Q of the Week: When Things Get Weird (2/5)

Question: After reviewing applications for a position with the city and interviewing candidates, now the city council has to decide who to offer the job to. It is always a little weird to talk about pros and cons of each candidate—to spare any awkwardness, can the city council close a meeting to discuss the job applicants?

Answer: Unfortunately, no. While it may be uncomfortable to discuss job applicants in an open meeting, the council meeting must remain open.

The Open Meeting Law (Minnesota Statute Chapter 13D) generally requires all city council meetings be open to the public. There are limited exceptions to this rule, but alas, there is no statutory exception for discussing qualifications of applicants for city jobs.

Meetings must be closed when cities are discussing misconduct allegations or certain non-public data. Cities may close meetings if councils are:

(1) discussing strategies for labor negotiations

(2) evaluating the performance of a city employee

(3) meeting with the city attorney to discuss active, threatened, or pending litigation

(4) discussing the purchase or sale of property

(5) receiving or discussing issues related to security systems

If your city is considering closing a meeting, work with the city attorney to ensure that one of these exceptions applies and the proper procedures related to the closed meeting are followed.

As hard as it can be to talk about the pros and cons of job applicants in an open meeting (particularly in small cities where everyone knows everyone), the public has the right to know how a city makes its decisions.

For more information on the Open Meeting Law and when cities may close meetings, see the League’s Meetings of City Councils Memo.

This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information.  

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