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October 11, 2018

Request: Did the Williston Public School Board District #1 violate the open meetings laws by holding an unauthorized executive session?

Conclusion: The Williston Public School Board District #1 held a special meeting in May 2018 and entered into an executive session for negotiating strategy to discuss the superintendent’s contract and salary offer. The meeting lasted approximately two hours. Upon reconvening, the Board did not make any motions or take any final action, but after the meeting, an offer was made to the agreed upon applicant.  An executive session is authorized to discuss negotiating strategy or provide negotiating instructions regarding contracts, not simply because a contract is being discussed. In addition, the discussion is only protected if disclosure of the remarks to the public would have an adverse fiscal effect on the governing body’s bargaining position. My office reviewed the recording of the executive session. Only during the last few minutes of the two-hour executive session did the board discuss any salary or benefits package, or discuss how to move forward if the offer was rejected. This is the only discussion that was proper for the executive session. In addition, although no formal vote was taken, the Board reached a consensus on who would be offered the position and on the baseline negotiation salary and benefits package. This consensus is considered final action that must take place in the public portion of the meeting.

Opinion 2018-O-16

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