This subchapter shall be liberally construed to achieve the purposes set forth in this section, and the rule that penal statutes must be strictly construed shall be limited to the enforcement of forfeitures and shall not otherwise apply to actions brought under this subchapter or to interpretations thereof.
History: 1975 c. 426
; 1983 a. 192
Subsequent to the presentation of evidence by the taxpayer, board of review consideration of testimony by the village assessor at an executive session was contrary to the open meeting law, 66.77, since although it was permissible for the board to convene a closed session for the purpose of deliberating after a quasi-judicial hearing, the proceedings did not constitute mere deliberations but were a continuation of the quasi-judicial hearing without the presence of or notice to the objecting taxpayer. Dolphin v. Board of Review, 70 W (2d) 403, 234 NW (2d) 277.
Under unique facts presented in which City of Milwaukee and private non-profit festival organization incorporated Open Meetings Law into contract, court construes contract to allow public enforcement of contractual provisions concerning open meetings. Journal/Sentinel, Inc. v. Pleva, 155 W (2d) 704, 456 NW (2d) 359 (1990).
Sub. (2) requires that a meeting be held in a facility which gives reasonable public access, not total access; no person may be systematically excluded or arbitrarily refused admittance. State ex rel. Badke v. Greendale Village Bd. 173 W (2d) 553, 494 NW (2d) 408 (1993).
A regular open meeting, held subsequent to a closed meeting on another subject, does not constitute a reconvened open meeting where there was no prior open meeting on that day. 58 Atty. Gen. 41.
Consideration of a resolution is formal action of an administrative or minor governing body and when taken in proper closed session, the resolution and result of vote must be made available for public inspection, pursuant to 19.21, absent specific showing that the public interest would be adversely affected. 60 Atty. Gen. 9.
Joint apprenticeship committees, appointed pursuant to 4 Wis. Adm. Code, sec. Ind 85.02, are governmental bodies within the meaning of 66.77 (2) (c) and subject to the requirements of the open meeting law. 63 Atty. Gen. 363.
Voting procedures employed by workmen's compensation and unemployment advisory councils which utilize adjournment of public meeting for purposes of having members representing employers and members representing employes or workers to separately meet in closed caucuses and to vote as a block on reconvening are contrary to 66.77 and 15.09 (4), (5). 63 Atty. Gen. 414.
Governmental body can call closed sessions for proper purpose without giving notice to members of news media who have filed written request under 66.77 (2) (e). 63 Atty. Gen. 470.
Meaning of communication in 66.77 (2) (e) discussed with reference to giving the public and news media members adequate notice. 63 Atty. Gen. 509.
Posting in Governor's office of agenda of future investment board meetings is not sufficient communication under 66.77 (2) (e) to the public or the news media who have filed a written request for notice. 63 Atty. Gen. 549.
Under 66.77 (6), a county board may not utilize unidentified paper ballot in voting to appoint county highway commissioner, but may vote by ayes and nays or show of hands at open session if some member does not require vote to be taken in such manner that the vote of each member may be ascertained and recorded. 63 Atty. Gen. 569.
See note to 19.21, citing 63 Atty. Gen. 573.
NOTE: The following annotations refer to ss. 19.81 to 19.98.
Open meeting law is not applicable to the Wis. judicial commission. State ex rel. Lynch v. Dancey, 71 W (2d) 287, 238 NW (2d) 81.
Discussion of this subchapter. 65 Atty. Gen. preface.
Public notice requirements for meetings of city district school board under this subchapter and s. 120.48, 1983 stats., discussed. 66 Atty. Gen. 93.
Volunteer fire department organized as a nonprofit corporation under 213.05 is not subject to the open meeting law. 66 Atty. Gen. 113.
Anyone has the right to tape-record an open meeting of a governmental body provided the meeting is not thereby physically disrupted. 66 Atty. Gen. 318.
Open meeting law does not apply to a coroner's inquest. 67 Atty. Gen. 250.
Open meeting law does not apply where common council hears a grievance under a collective bargaining agreement. 67 Atty. Gen. 276.
Application of open meeting law to duties of WERC discussed. 68 Atty. Gen. 171.
Meeting of committee on reapportionment was probably held in violation of open meetings law. 71 Atty. Gen. 63
Foundations, building corporations and independent bodies politic and corporate are not "governmental bodies". 73 Atty. Gen. 53
"Quasi-governmental corporation" in (1) includes private corporations which closely resemble governmental corporations in function, effect or status. 80 Atty. Gen. 129
Understanding Wisconsin's open meeting law. Harvey, WBB September 1980.
As used in this subchapter:
"Governmental body" means a state or local agency, board, commission, committee, council, department or public body corporate and politic created by constitution, statute, ordinance, rule or order; a governmental or quasi-governmental corporation except for the Bradley center sports and entertainment corporation; a local exposition district under subch. II of ch. 229
; any public purpose corporation, as defined in s. 181.79 (1)
; a nonprofit corporation operating the Olympic ice training center under s. 42.11 (3)
; or a formally constituted subunit of any of the foregoing, but excludes any such body or committee or subunit of such body which is formed for or meeting for the purpose of collective bargaining under subch. IV
or V of ch. 111
Effective date note
Sub. (1) is amended eff. 7-1-97 by 1995 Wis. Act 27
Effective date text
(1) "Governmental body" means a state or local agency, board, commission, committee, council, department or public body corporate and politic created by constitution, statute, ordinance, rule or order; a governmental or quasi-governmental corporation except for the Bradley center sports and entertainment corporation; a local exposition district under subch. II of ch. 229; any public purpose corporation, as defined in s. 181.79 (1); a nonprofit corporation operating the Olympic ice training center under s. 42.11 (3); or a formally constituted subunit of any of the foregoing, but excludes any such body or committee or subunit of such body which is formed for or meeting for the purpose of collective bargaining under subch. I, IV or V of ch. 111.
"Meeting" means the convening of members of a governmental body for the purpose of exercising the responsibilities, authority, power or duties delegated to or vested in the body. If one-half or more of the members of a governmental body are present, the meeting is rebuttably presumed to be for the purpose of exercising the responsibilities, authority, power or duties delegated to or vested in the body. The term does not include any social or chance gathering or conference which is not intended to avoid this subchapter, any gathering of the members of a town board for the purpose specified in s. 60.50 (6)
, any gathering of the commissioners of a town sanitary district for the purpose specified in s. 60.77 (5) (k)
or any gathering of the members of a drainage board created under s. 88.16
, 1991 stats., or under s. 88.17
, for a purpose specified in s. 88.065 (5) (a)
"Open session" means a meeting which is held in a place reasonably accessible to members of the public and open to all citizens at all times. In the case of a state governmental body, it means a meeting which is held in a building and room thereof which enables access by persons with functional limitations, as defined in s. 101.13 (1)
"Meeting" under (2) was found although governmental body was not empowered to exercise final powers of its parent body. State v. Swanson, 92 W (2d) 310, 284 NW (2d) 655 (1979).
"Meeting" under (2) was found where members met with purpose to engage in government business and number of members present was sufficient to determine parent body's course of action regarding proposal discussed. State ex rel. Newspapers v. Showers, 135 W (2d) 77, 398 NW (2d) 154 (1987).
A municipal public utility commission managing a city owned public electric utility is a governmental body under (1). 65 Atty. Gen. 243.
"Private conference" under 118.22 (3), on nonrenewal of teacher's contract is a "meeting" within 19.82 (2). 66 Atty. Gen. 211.
A private home may qualify as a meeting place under (3). 67 Atty. Gen. 125.
Telephone conference call involving members of governmental body is a "meeting" which must be reasonably accessible to public and public notice must be given. 69 Atty. Gen. 143.
Meetings of governmental bodies.
Every meeting of a governmental body shall be preceded by public notice as provided in s. 19.84
, and shall be held in open session. At any meeting of a governmental body, all discussion shall be held and all action of any kind, formal or informal, shall be initiated, deliberated upon and acted upon only in open session except as provided in s. 19.85
History: 1975 c. 426
When a quorum of a governmental body attends the meeting of another governmental body where any one of the members is not also a member of the second governmental body, the gathering is a "meeting" unless the gathering is social or by chance. State ex rel. Badke v. Greendale Village Bd. 173 W (2d) 553, 494 NW (2d) 408 (1993).
Public notice. 19.84(1)(1)
Public notice of all meetings of a governmental body shall be given in the following manner:
By communication from the chief presiding officer of a governmental body or such person's designee to the public, to those news media who have filed a written request for such notice, and to the official newspaper designated under ss. 985.04
or, if none exists, to a news medium likely to give notice in the area.
Every public notice of a meeting of a governmental body shall set forth the time, date, place and subject matter of the meeting, including that intended for consideration at any contemplated closed session, in such form as is reasonably likely to apprise members of the public and the news media thereof.
Public notice of every meeting of a governmental body shall be given at least 24 hours prior to the commencement of such meeting unless for good cause such notice is impossible or impractical, in which case shorter notice may be given, but in no case may the notice be provided less than 2 hours in advance of the meeting.
Separate public notice shall be given for each meeting of a governmental body at a time and date reasonably proximate to the time and date of the meeting.
Departments and their subunits in any university of Wisconsin system institution or campus and a nonprofit corporation operating the Olympic ice training center under s. 42.11 (3)
are exempt from the requirements of subs. (1)
but shall provide meeting notice which is reasonably likely to apprise interested persons, and news media who have filed written requests for such notice.
Notwithstanding the requirements of s. 19.83
and the requirements of this section, a governmental body which is a formally constituted subunit of a parent governmental body may conduct a meeting without public notice as required by this section during a lawful meeting of the parent governmental body, during a recess in such meeting or immediately after such meeting for the purpose of discussing or acting upon a matter which was the subject of that meeting of the parent governmental body. The presiding officer of the parent governmental body shall publicly announce the time, place and subject matter of the meeting of the subunit in advance at the meeting of the parent body.
Under (1) (b), written request for notice of meetings of governmental body should be filed with chief presiding officer or designee and separate written request should be filed with each specific governmental body. 65 Atty. Gen. 166.
Method of giving notice pursuant to (1) discussed. 65 Atty. Gen. 250.
Specificity of notice required by governmental body discussed. 66 Atty. Gen. 143, 195.
Requirements of notice given to newspapers under this section discussed. 66 Atty. Gen. 230.
A town board, but not an annual town meeting is a "governmental body" within the meaning of the open meetings law. 66 Atty. Gen. 237.
News media who have filed written requests for notices of public meetings cannot be charged fees by governmental bodies for communication of notices. 77 Atty. Gen. 312
Newspaper is not obligated to print notice received under (1) (b), nor is governmental body obligated to pay for publication. Martin v. Wray, 473 F Supp. 1131 (1979).
Any meeting of a governmental body, upon motion duly made and carried, may be convened in closed session under one or more of the exemptions provided in this section. The motion shall be carried by a majority vote in such manner that the vote of each member is ascertained and recorded in the minutes. No motion to convene in closed session may be adopted unless the chief presiding officer announces to those present at the meeting at which such motion is made, the nature of the business to be considered at such closed session, and the specific exemption or exemptions under this subsection by which such closed session is claimed to be authorized. Such announcement shall become part of the record of the meeting. No business may be taken up at any closed session except that which relates to matters contained in the chief presiding officer's announcement of the closed session. A closed session may be held for any of the following purposes:
Deliberating concerning a case which was the subject of any judicial or quasi-judicial trial or hearing before that governmental body.
Considering dismissal, demotion, licensing or discipline of any public employe or person licensed by a board or commission or the investigation of charges against such person, or considering the grant or denial of tenure for a university faculty member, and the taking of formal action on any such matter; provided that the faculty member or other public employe or person licensed is given actual notice of any evidentiary hearing which may be held prior to final action being taken and of any meeting at which final action may be taken. The notice shall contain a statement that the person has the right to demand that the evidentiary hearing or meeting be held in open session. This paragraph and par. (f)
do not apply to any such evidentiary hearing or meeting where the employe or person licensed requests that an open session be held.
Considering employment, promotion, compensation or performance evaluation data of any public employe over which the governmental body has jurisdiction or exercises responsibility.
Except as provided by rule promulgated under s. 304.06 (1) (em)
, considering specific applications of probation or parole, or considering strategy for crime detection or prevention.
Deliberating or negotiating the purchasing of public properties, the investing of public funds, or conducting other specified public business, whenever competitive or bargaining reasons require a closed session.
Deliberating by the council on unemployment compensation in a meeting at which all employer members of the council or all employe members of the council are excluded.
Deliberating by the council on worker's compensation in a meeting at which all employer members of the council or all employe members of the council are excluded.
Deliberating under s. 157.70
if the location of a burial site, as defined in s. 157.70 (1) (b)
, is a subject of the deliberation and if discussing the location in public would be likely to result in disturbance of the burial site.
Considering financial, medical, social or personal histories or disciplinary data of specific persons, preliminary consideration of specific personnel problems or the investigation of charges against specific persons except where par. (b)
applies which, if discussed in public, would be likely to have a substantial adverse effect upon the reputation of any person referred to in such histories or data, or involved in such problems or investigations.
Conferring with legal counsel for the governmental body who is rendering oral or written advice concerning strategy to be adopted by the body with respect to litigation in which it is or is likely to become involved.
Consideration of requests for confidential written advice from the ethics board under s. 19.46 (2)
, or from any county or municipal ethics board under s. 19.59 (5)
Considering any and all matters related to acts by businesses under s. 560.15
which, if discussed in public, could adversely affect the business, its employes or former employes.
Considering financial information relating to the support by a person, other than an authority, of a nonprofit corporation operating the Olympic ice training center under s. 42.11 (3)
, if the information is exempt from disclosure under s. 42.115
or would be so exempt were the information to be contained in a record. In this paragraph, "authority" and "record" have the meanings given under s. 19.32
No governmental body may commence a meeting, subsequently convene in closed session and thereafter reconvene again in open session within 12 hours after completion of the closed session, unless public notice of such subsequent open session was given at the same time and in the same manner as the public notice of the meeting convened prior to the closed session.
Nothing in this subchapter shall be construed to authorize a governmental body to consider at a meeting in closed session the final ratification or approval of a collective bargaining agreement under subch. IV
or V of ch. 111
which has been negotiated by such body or on its behalf.
Effective date note
Sub. (3) is amended eff. 7-1-97 by 1995 Wis. Act 27
Effective date text
(3) Nothing in this subchapter shall be construed to authorize a governmental body to consider at a meeting in closed session the final ratification or approval of a collective bargaining agreement under subch. I, IV or V of ch. 111 which has been negotiated by such body or on its behalf.
See note to 19.35, citing Oshkosh Northwestern Co. v. Oshkosh Library Bd. 125 W (2d) 480, 373 NW (2d) 459 (Ct. App. 1985).
Discussion of balance between protection of reputation under (1) (f) and public interest in openness. Wis. State Journal v. UW-Platteville, 160 W (2d) 31, 465 NW (2d) 266 (Ct. App. 1990). See also Pangman v. Stigler, 161 W (2d) 828, 468 NW (2d) 784 (Ct. App. 1991).
A "case" under sub. (1) (a) contemplates an adversarial proceeding. It does not connote the mere application for and granting of a permit. Hodge v. Turtle Lake, 180 W (2d) 62, 508 NW (2d) 603 (1993).
Boards of review cannot rely on exemptions in (1) to close any meeting in view of explicit requirements in 70.47 (2m). 65 Atty. Gen. 162.
University subunit may discuss promotions not relating to tenure, merit increases and property purchase recommendations in closed session. 66 Atty. Gen. 60.
Neither (1) (c) nor (f) authorizes school board to make actual appointment of new member in closed session. 74 Atty. Gen. 70
County board chairperson and committee are not authorized by (1) (c) to meet in closed session to discuss appointments to county board committees; however, in appropriate circumstances, (1) (f) would authorize closed sessions. 76 Atty. Gen. 276
Sub. (1) (c) does not permit closed session to consider employment, compensation, promotion or performance evaluation policies to be applied to position of employment in general. 80 Atty. Gen. 176