General Counsel
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Is My Meeting Subject to Open Meeting Laws?

"Official meetings" of "public bodies" must be open to the public. This includes most university standing committees and some search committees (Tier I positions).

A "public body" at UNCP is:

  • any committee or group established by a vice chancellor or higher authority;
  • whose membership is not just university administrators;
  • that deals with matters on a university-wide basis; and
  • makes findings, decisions, or recommendations on a quasi-legislative, quasi-judicial, policy-making, or administrative action (eg. a committee making a recommendation to the Chancellor regarding a faculty grievance).

See UNC System Policy Manual 1300.4[G]

An “official meeting” occurs when a majority of the public body attends the meeting, and the meeting is for the purposes of conducting hearings, deliberations, voting, or otherwise conducting public business.  Official meetings may be conducted conference calls or other electronic means.  Informal gatherings may not be used to evade the law.

WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR AN OPEN MEETING?

Post notice:  the public body must post advance notice of official meetings.

“Regular” meetingsshould be posted via a single posting at the first of the year or semester. If the schedule is changed, then the revised schedule shall be posted at least seven (7) calendar days before the day of the first meeting.

“Special” meetings must be posted at least 48 hours in advance (not including weekends or holidays). 

“Emergency” meetings are to be limited to true emergencies, which should be “called because of generally unexpected circumstances that require immediate consideration by the public body.”

At UNCP, notices for public body meetings are posted on the bulletin boards in Human Resources (on the exterior bulletin board) and in the University Center (exterior bulletin board case on the west side of the Center). In addition, notices should be submitted to the University’s Public Communication Specialist (Scott Bigelow) for notification to media outlets.

Keep Minutes:  the public body must keep accurate minutes of its meetings.

Make Motion to go into Closed Session: a public body may conduct a closed meeting to prevent disclosure of privileged or otherwise confidential information. During an open meeting session, the public body must make a motion to close the meeting and cite the law that provides for confidentiality. Some justifications for closed meetings include:

  • to prevent disclosure of privileged information per NC Statutes or regulations (eg. personnel records et al.) [NCGS § 143-318.11 (a)(1)];
  • to prevent disclosure of privileged information per the regulations or laws of the United States (eg. student records/FERPA) [NCGS § 143-318.11 (a)(1)];
  • to prevent premature disclosure of honorary degrees, prizes, scholarships, or other awards [NCGS § 143-318.11 (a)(2)];
  • to receive information or discussions with an attorney under the attorney-client privilege [NCGS § 143-318.11 (a)(3)];
  • to discuss buying land, leasing property, or employment contracts [NCGS § 143-318.11 (a)(5)];
  • to consider an employee’s qualifications, complaints about an employee, or other personnel matters [NCGS § 143-318.11 (a)(6)]; or
  • to plan, conduct, or review reports from hearings concerning criminal misconduct or to prevent disclosure of student records [NCGS § 143-318.11 (a)(7)].

The record of the motion having been made and passed must appear in the minutes of the open session.

WHAT IF THERE IS A DISRUPTIVE PERSON AT THE MEETING?

If a person disturbs or willfully interrupts an official meeting, s/he may be directed to leave by the presiding officer. If the person fails to leave, campus police should be called immediately. There is no statutory right for any member of the public or media to speak at the meetings normally associated with UNCP.

CONSEQUENCES

When a public body does not comply with open meetings law, a court may declare any action taken by the public body to be "null and void." In addition, the court may award attorney’s fees to the prevailing party(ies) when a meeting is challenged in court and may direct that individual member(s) of the public body pay for such costs personally if there is an intentional violation.

RESOURCES

N.C. General Statutes on Open Meetings are at Chapter 143, Article 33C

Call the Office of the General Counsel at 910.521.6201 for assistance.