63 Op. Att'y Gen. 470 (1974)
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Wisconsin Attorney General Opinions

3 October 1974

Open Meeting;

Governmental body can call closed session for
proper purpose without giving notice to
members of news media who have filed
written request under
Section 66.77(2)(e), Stats.

DANIEL J. MIRON, District Attorney,
Marinette County

You request my opinion whether a governmental
body can call a closed meeting without giving
notice to the members of the news media who
have filed written request for notice under
Section 66.77(2)(e), Stats., created by
Chapter 297, Laws of 1973.

It is my opinion that it can.

This opinion assumes that the purpose for
which such meeting is called is within the
exceptions set forth in Section 66.77(4),
Stats., and that discussion is limited
to matters which can be considered
at a closed session.

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This opinion further assumes that there is no
express statute relating to the particular
governmental body involved whichwould require
some form of public notice for any meeting.

Section 66.77(8), Stats., provides
for a forfeiture for

 " any member of a governmental body who
   knowingly attends a meeting at which a
   violation of this section occurs. "

Since the statute contains a penalty, its
provisions are to be strictly construed.

Section 66.77(2)(a), (b), (d), (e),
Section 66.77(3),
Section 66.77(4),
Section 66.77(5), Stats., provides, in part:

66.77(2)    In this section:

66.77(2)(a) "Closed session" means any
             meeting not an open session.

66.77(2)(b) "Meeting" means the convening of
             a governmental body in a session
             such that the body is vested
             with authority, power, duties
             or responsibilities not vested
             in the individual members . .

66.77(2)(d) "Open session" means a meeting
             which is held in a place
             reasonably accessible to
             members of the public,
             which is open to all
             citizens at all times,
             and which has received
             public notice.

66.77(2)(e) "Public notice" means statutorily
             required notice, if any.

             If no notice is required
             by statute, it means a
             communication by the
             chief presiding officer
             of a governmental body
             or his designee, to the
             public and to the official
             municipal or city newspaper
             designated under Section 985.05
             or 985.06, or if none exists,
             then to members of the news
             media who have filed a written
             request for such notice, which
             communication is reasonably
             likely to apprise members of
             the public and of the news media
             of the time, place and subject
             matter of the meeting at a
             time, not less than one hour
             prior to the commencement of
             such meeting, which affords
             them a reasonable opportunity
             to attend.

66.77(3)     Except as provided in Subsection
             66.77(4), all meetings of
             governmental bodies shall
             be open sessions.

             No discussion of any matter
             shall be held and no action of
             any kind, formal or informal,
             shall be introduced, deliberated
             upon, or adopted by a
             governmental body in closed
             session, except as provided
             in Subsection 66.77(4).

             Any action taken at a meeting
             held in violation of this
             section shall be voidable.

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66.77(4)     A governmental body may convene
             in closed session for purposes
             of: . . . 66.77(4)(a)-(h). . .

66.77(5)     No motion to hold a closed
             session or to adjourn an open
             session into a closed session
             shall be adopted unless the
             chief presiding officer
             announces to those present
             at the meeting at which such
             motion is made the general
             nature of the business to be
             considered at such closed
             session, and no other
             business shall be taken up
             at such closed session.

             No governmental body shall
             commence an open session,
             subsequently recess into a
             closed session, and
             subsequently reconvene
             into an open session within
             a 12-hour period, 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
             initial open meeting.

Subsection 66.77(5) contemplates that the
governmental body can by motion made and
passed determine to hold a closed session.

I am of the opinion that such procedure is
not the exclusive means by which a
closed session may be called.

Some governmental bodies are required
by special statute to call meetings
in a specified manner.

Other governmental bodies generally meet on
call of their chief presiding officer.

Whereas public notice in the form specified
in Section 66.77(2)(e), Stats., is
required for open sessions, and
whereas Section 66.77(5), Stats.,
requires the chief presiding
officer to announce

 " to those present at the meeting at
   which such motion is made the general
   nature of the business to be considered
   at such closed session, "

there appears to be no language which
prohibits the convening of a governmental
body into a closed session for proper
purpose, on call of the presiding officer or
other duly authorized officer, on a date when
no open session is being held prior to the
closed session, and there is no language
which requires that notice of such meeting
and the matter to be discussed be given to
the public or to news media.

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If the legislature had intended that notice
of closed meetings be given to the public
and news media in such instances, it could
have expressly provided therefor.

In most instances, it may be advisable to
give public notice, and notice to the news
media of the time, place and subject
matter of the proposed closed session,
and I commend such practice.


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