66 Op. Att'y Gen. 143 (1977)
66 OAG 143  144 145


Wisconsin Attorney General Opinions

18 April 1977

Open Meeting;

Public notice under Section 19.84(2), Stats.,
for meeting of governmental body should be as
specific as possible but a governmental body
can discuss matters not specifically set
forth in the notice and not known to chief
presiding officer when the notice was given
if the notice contains item similar to

     " such other matters as
       are authorized by law. "

Such procedure should be utilized
with restraint.

City Attorney, Stevens Point

Pursuant to Section 19.98, Stats., you
request my advice on three questions relating
to the open meeting law created by
Chapter 426, Laws of 1975.

(1)  Does the chief executive officer of the
     City or the governing body, at its
     monthly meeting, have the authority to
     add subject matter to its agenda at the
     time of its meeting where the particular
     subject matter was not known to the
     governing body or chief executive
     officer prior to his formulating the

The answer is "no." However, governmental
bodies may be well advised to place a general
item on the agenda such as " such other
matters as are authorized by law. "

In such case the governmental body could
discuss, and if urgent, act upon matters
which were not specifically referred to in
the agenda. See 63 OAG 509, 511 (1974).

Matters of considerable importance should not
be acted upon in this manner but should be
postponed to a subsequent meeting for which
more specific notice may be given. Section
19.84(1), Stats., places the duty on the
chief presiding officer or his designee to
give the required notice.

Section 19.84(2) Stats., provides:

19.84(2)  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.

66 OAG 143  144  145

This provision does not require a
governmental body to utilize a
detailed agenda.

Many governmental bodies, by custom or
procedural rule, do utilize a detailed agenda
which is in itself suitable for publishing,
posting and delivery to any official
newspaper or members of the news media.

The notice utilized should be as specific as
possible. The intent of the new law is clear.

The public is entitled to the best notice
which can be given.

Consequently when any matters are known in
advance to be a part of the agenda they
should be described in the notice.

Most governmental bodies have rules
permitting the consideration of
"miscellaneous business."

It would be proper to include such a general
phrase in the notice where it supplements
more specific information about the agenda
and the body's rules provide for the
consideration of such business.

See 66 OAG 68 (1977).

(2)  Is there a violation of the Open Meeting
     Law where a governmental body through
     its agenda specifies a particular
     subject matter and thereafter by
     amendment to the particular subject
     matter would have the result of
     increasing the subject matter discussion
     to other matters where the same is
     permissible by parliamentary law?

The answer is "no," if the presiding officer
rules that the amendment is germane to the
subject matter listed in the original agenda
and such ruling is sustained by the body.

(3)  May a governing body discuss and act
     upon related matters which are not on
     its agenda which however relate to the
     subject matter indirectly?

The answer is "no," unless as discussed in
answer to your second question above the
related matter is ruled by the presiding
officer to be germane to the subject matter
listed in the original agenda and such ruling
is sustained by the body.

The presiding officer should apply a test of
reasonableness as to what is fairly included
within the scope of a particular agenda item.
Such matters must be determined on a
case-by-case basis.

The stated purpose of the law recognizes that
"the public is entitled to the fullest and
most complete information regarding the
affairs of government as is compatible with
the conduct of governmental business."
Section 19.81(1), Stats.

The purpose of the law is not to interfere
with or limit the power of a governmental
body to carry out its statutory duties.

66 OAG 143  144  145

As noted above, reliance upon
a general phrase such as

     " such other matters as
       are authorized by law, "

should be limited and should never be
utilized as a means of concealment of
the probable introduction and discussion
of matters of importance or of wide concern
which were known to the chief presiding
officer or his designee at the time public
notice was required to be given.

66 OAG 143  144 145