Open Meetings Law FAQ 3

Can a governing body meeting in closed session exclude one of its members from a meeting of that body? Similarly, can a committee meeting in closed session exclude a governing body member from its meeting if the governing body member is not a member of the committee? Finally, can members of a statutory board or commission which is meeting in closed session, i.e., a library board, plan commission or a police and fire commission, exclude members of the municipality's governing body?

The answers to the above three questions, respectively, are no, maybe, and yes. These questions are all answered by reference to sec. 19.89 of the Wisconsin statutes. Section 19.89 provides:

No duly elected or appointed member of a governmental body may be excluded from any meeting of such body. Unless the rules of a governmental body provide to the contrary, no member of the body may be excluded from any meeting of a subunit of that governmental body.

Section 19.89 clearly prohibits a governing body such as a village board or common council from excluding a governing body member from a closed session of the body. It also prohibits a committee from excluding a governing body member who is not also a member of the committee from its closed session unless the governing body has enacted rules which would permit the exclusion. A committee is usually considered to be a subunit of a governing body. However, independent statutory boards such as library boards, plan commissions and police and fire commissions are not considered to be a subunit of a village board or common council and the League has consistently opined that independent statutory boards and commissions can exclude members of the village board or common council who are not also members of the board or commission from a meeting of that body. See Governing Bodies 310, 319 and 347.