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March 7, 2018

Request: Did the Lincoln city council violate the state’s open meetings law by failing to properly notice and proceed into an executive session and holding an unauthorized executed session?

Conclusion: The Lincoln city council held a special meeting. The meeting notice and agenda included an executive session to receive attorney consultation related to legal actions associated with labor and employment of a city police officer. The city met in an open meeting before making a motion to go into executive session. The motion was seconded, a roll call vote taken, and the motion passed.  At the conclusion of the executive session, the city made a statement that no final action was taken during the executive session. The city complied with the requirements of the law regarding the meeting notice and the procedures it followed to announce and hold the executive session.

During the 2017 Legislative Session, the definition of attorney consultation was expanded to include instances in which a governing body seeks its attorney’s advice and guidance on the legal risks, strengths and weaknesses of an action which, if the discussions were held in public, would have an adverse fiscal effect on the entity. Based on the facts provided by the council, prior to the special meeting the police officer had made specific claims to the city attorney regarding alleged workplace harassment and discrimination actions against the city and had hired an attorney. Due to the nature of these accusations and subsequent actions by the officer, it was reasonable for the council and its attorney to conclude that “reasonably predicable litigation” could ensue. In any event, the discussions that took place fit the expanded definition of attorney consultation. The executive session was authorized by law.

Opinion 2018-O-05

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