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May 17, 2018

Request:  Did the West Fargo School Board violate the open meetings law by holding an unauthorized executive session during its January 2018 regular meeting?

Conclusion:   A public entity may hold a closed executive session to discuss negotiating strategy if holding the discussions in an open meeting would have an adverse fiscal effect on the bargaining position of a public entity. The West Fargo School Board held an executive session to discuss various negotiation strategies it would utilize to secure the employment of a future superintendent. The discussions regarding the negotiation strategies held during the executive session were authorized by law. During its discussions, the board also decided not to vote but rather say it had reached a consensus on the baseline salary and benefits. This was announced to the public upon reconvening in an open meeting. Reaching a consensus is the same as taking a vote. The consensus was a final decision made by the board that should have been voted upon during the open portion of the meeting. The Board violated the law when it took final action during the executive session. 

Opinion: 2018-O-08

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