October 17, 2002
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the facts presented in your correspondence.
I have received your letter in which you raised questions concerning an advisory opinion addressed to you on August 28, as well as related matters.
In consideration of your remarks, first, I point out there is nothing in the Open Meetings Law that makes reference or pertains directly to adjournment of a meeting of a public body.
Second, it appears that you may have misconstrued certain of my comments. As you are likely aware, a "meeting" involves a gathering of a quorum of a public body for the purpose of conducting public business [§102(1)]. An executive session, according to §102(3), is a portion of a meeting during which the public may be excluded. Further, a procedure must be accomplished in public before an executive session may be held. With respect to the termination of a meeting, there are often instances in which a quorum is present and a meeting is being conducted, either in public or perhaps in executive session, when a member or members must leave the meeting to engage in other appointments, to catch a scheduled train, etc. In these situations, when a sufficient number of the members of a public body depart that there is no longer a quorum present, the meeting has ended, even if there is no motion or official action to adjourn. Absent a quorum, the Open Meetings Law is no longer applicable, and no motion to take any sort of action, even to adjourn, could effectively be made and carried.
With respect to my statement that public bodies often inform those in attendance that no business will be conducted following an executive session, my intent was not to suggest or, to use your word, "imply", that the public has no right to remain present until the meeting has ended. On the contrary, the kind of statement that I described is typically made out of consideration and a desire to be courteous to those who attend meetings. Many are grateful to be informed that no further business will be conducted after an executive session; with that information, they can choose to move onto another activity. However, if they see fit to do so, certainly they have the right to remain until the meeting has ended.
Lastly, you referred at the end of your letter to the possibility of raising issues with the "Committee on Professional Standards." I am unfamiliar with any such entity. Nevertheless, I hope that the preceding commentary serves to clarify the remarks offered in the August 28 opinion.
Robert J. Freeman