67 Op. Att'y Gen. 125 (1978)
 
67 OAG 125  126  127

OPINION NO. OAG 28-78,

Wisconsin Attorney General Opinions

26 April 1978

Open Meeting; Towns;

Whereas it is preferable to hold meetings of
a town board in a public building such as a
town hall, fire station or school building,
such meeting can be legally held at the home
of a town officer if proper notice is given
and if the home is, in fact, reasonably
accessible to members of the public during
all times the meeting is in progress.

 
67 OAG 125  126  127

RONALD W. DAMP, Attorney City of Plymouth

Pursuant to section 19.98, Stats., you
request advice whether a meeting of a town
board can be held at the home of the town
clerk where the town hall is available for
such meeting.

I am of the opinion that a legal meeting can
be held at the home of the town clerk or
other board member if the meeting is
properly noticed and if the place,
the home, is in fact reasonably
accessible to members of the public.

The policy declaration in the open meetings
law is in part set forth in
Section 19.81(2), Stats.,
which provides:

19.81(2)

     To implement and ensure the public
     policy herein expressed, all meetings of
     all state and local governmental bodies
     shall be publicly held in places
     reasonably accessible to members of the
     public and shall be open to all citizens
     at all times unless otherwise expressly
     provided by law.

The substantive provision involved is found
in the definition of the term "open meeting."
Section 19.82(3), Stats., provides:

19.82(3)  "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.

The statute does not require that all
meetings be held in publicly owned places but
rather in places "reasonably accessible to
members of the public."

There is no requirement that the place which
has the greatest accessibility be utilized
or that it be owned by the public.

Public meetings are often held in privately
owned hotels, theaters, etc.

Meetings of town boards have traditionally
been held in homes of the various officers.

Many town halls are not adequately heated,
lighted or equipped to hold meetings
during all seasons of the year.

In certain towns in midwinter, a town
officer's house might be more "accessible"
than an unheated town hall.

The test to be utilized is whether the
meeting place is "reasonably accessible," and
that is a factual question to be determined
in each case.

 
67 OAG 125  126  127

Public policy favors the holding of meetings
of governmental bodies in public places, such
as a town hall, fire station or schoolhouse,
rather than a private home.

In certain cases the nature of the business
to be transacted, such as a hearing, the size
of the governmental body or the anticipated
attendance, would require the meeting to be
held at some other place than a private home
in order that the meeting place be

     "reasonably accessible to
      members of the public."
 

Meetings held in private homes should be the
exception, not the common practice; and where
so held, responsible officials should take
such steps as may be necessary to insure that
adequate notice to the public and members of
the press has been given and that there is an
open invitation and ready admittance to
members of the public who seek admission
to the meeting place.

BCL:RJV
 
67 OAG 125  126  127