Kansas Open Meetings Act
Guidelines for Committee Use
As a matter of policy, meetings of university committees are open to the public. For that reason, committees may need to become familiar with the operating requirements of the Kansas Open Meetings Act. The following are general guidelines to assist committees when operating within the provisions of the Act. For further guidance concerning the applicability of the Act to particular committees or particular circumstances, contact the University General Counsel.
I. Notices and Agendas
Any person who requests it must be furnished notice of the date, time and place of any regular or special meeting of a body that is subject to the Open Meetings Act. This applies to both oral and written requests for notice. If notice is requested by an organization or by a group of individuals, notice to a single individual designated by the organization or group is satisfactory notice. A request for ongoing notice should be considered valid at least for the fiscal year in which it is requested. If notice is to be discontinued at the end of the fiscal year, notice to resubmit the request must be given. There is no general notice requirement, absent a request. Agendas must also be furnished on request, but the Act does not require preparation of an agenda.
II. Executive Sessions During Open Meetings
The Kansas Open Meetings Act allows bodies subject to the Act to recess their open meetings for closed or executive sessions for purposes of discussing certain topics and those topics only. The subjects that may be handled in an executive session include the following:
- personnel matters of non-elected personnel;
- consultation with an attorney for the body or agency which would be deemed privileged in the attorney-client relationship;
- matters relating to employer-employee negotiations whether or not in consultation with the representative or representatives of the body or agency;
- confidential data relating to financial affairs or trade secrets of corporations, partnerships, trusts, and individual proprietorships;
- matters relating to actions adversely or favorably affecting a person as a student, patient or resident of a public institution, except that any such person shall have the right to a public hearing if requested by the person;
- preliminary discussions relating to the acquisition of real property; and
- matters relating to security measures, if discussion at an open meeting would jeopardize the security measures.
III. Procedures to be Followed for Executive Sessions
The Kansas Act is very precise in laying out the procedure that a body must follow in recessing into an executive meeting. K.S.A. 75-4319 provides as follows:
Any motion to recess for a closed or executive meeting shall include a statement of (1) the justification for closing the meeting, (2) the subjects to be discussed during the closed or executive meeting, and (3) the time and place at which the open meeting shall resume.
Such a motion would therefore read somewhat as follows:
I move that the committee recess for an executive meeting to discuss (fill in the particular matter to be discussed that falls under the statute) in order to protect (fill in the justification). The meeting will resume at (fill in time and place).
If during an executive session the time for resumption doesn't allow completion of the desired discussion, it is necessary to resume the open meeting and move to extend the executive session for the same reasons, indicating again the time and place of resumption. The law requires that the full motion be recorded in the minutes of the meeting and maintained as a part of the permanent records of the committee. It is, of course, particularly important that the discussion during the executive meeting be limited exclusively to the topic stated in the motion. Non-committee members may be present if necessary to the discussion in executive session.
Although a consensus may be reached, no binding action may be taken during executive sessions. Any vote or other decision-making action should occur in the open part of the meeting.
IV. The Quasi-Judicial Deliberations
The Act contains a statement that "any administrative body that is authorized by law to exercise quasi-judicial functions shall not be required to have open meetings when such body is deliberating matters relating to a decision involving such quasi-judicial functions." Examples of University committees that should be regarded as authorized by law to exercise quasi-judicial functions include the following:
8076 - Classified Employee Peer Review;
8042 - Parking Citation Appeals Board;
5220 - Graduate Student Grievance Committee;
1300 - Judicial Council - Student;
8270 - Out-of-State Fee Appeals Committee;
Student Judicial Boards, including Living Group Boards, the Student Review Board, Veterinary Medicine Student Grievance Committee, the Judicial Council, and Tribunal.
Grievance Panels for Administrative Appeals
Since only the deliberations of the committee prior to a decision may be closed, any hearing or other proceedings and the vote or other decision- making mechanism must be carried out in public. However, there are certain provisions above concerning executive sessions that provide for broader closure of the entire quasi-judicial proceeding when it involves students or personnel matters. (See II and III above.)
V. Secret Ballots
Bodies subject to the Act may not take binding action by secret ballot. This does not, of course, necessitate voting where committees operate by more informal methods of agreement and consensus.
Questions relating to this information should be directed to the Office of General Counsel, (785) 532-5730.