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Open Meetings of Governmental Bodies (Chapter 19j)
CHAPTER 3: Wisconsin
COMPUTER ID: WS-2
Title: Open Meetings of Governmental Bodies (Chapter 19j)
Effective Date: 1975
Authorized By: State of Wisconsin
Date of Last Revision: 2-2012
Open Meetings Law and Library Board Closed Sessions
Wisconsin's open meetings law places very specific requirements on library boards (and all
other government bodies) for notice and conduct of meetings. Below are the general
requirements for conduct of a closed session during a board meeting. Questions about the
open meetings law can be directed to your municipal attorney, the Wisconsin Attorney
General's office, or John DeBacher (608-266-7270).
Closed library board sessions are allowed for certain purposes, but the following steps are
all required for a library board (or any other government body) to legally conduct a closed
1. The meeting notice must indicate any contemplated closed session, the
subject matter of the closed session discussion, and the specific statutory
provision allowing a closed session.
For most personnel-related issues, the relevant exemption is provided in
Wisconsin Statutes s.19.85(1)(c) which allows closed sessions when the
employment, promotion, compensation, or performance evaluation data
of any public employee under the jurisdiction of the particular government
body is being considered. If a closed session was not planned, a board
may still go into closed session on any subject contained in the meeting
notice, whether the notice provides for a closed session or not, if the
board follows the procedures below.
Boards should be aware that if they will be considering the dismissal,
demotion or discipline of an employee, a closed session is possible under
Section 19.85(1)(b), but the board must give the employee notice of any
evidentiary hearing held prior to final action and to any meeting at which
final action might be taken. The notice to the employee must include a
statement that the employee can demand that the evidentiary hearing or
meeting be held in open session.
2. The board must first convene in open session.
3. The chief presiding officer must announce to all present at the meeting the
intention of going into closed session and the purpose of the closed session.
ITEM NUMBER: 3.02 b
4. The chief presiding officer must state the specific section of the law, by
statute number (e.g. Section 19.85(1)(c) for a director evaluation session),
which allows for the closed meeting. This announcement should be recorded
in the minutes. It is good practice for library staff to prepare in advance the
exact wording of the announcement to be used.
5. A motion, second and roll call vote, with the vote of each board member
recorded in the minutes. A majority vote is required to convene in closed
6. Attendance at the closed session is limited to the board, necessary staff, and
any other persons whose presence is needed for the business at hand.
7. Closed session discussions must be limited to the subject announced in the
meeting notice and the chief presiding officer's announcement.
8. Certain votes may possibly be legally taken in closed session. But it is a
better practice and safer legally to take votes after reconvening into open
session. At any rate, all board actions, whether taken in open or closed
session, must be recorded in the minutes and be open to public inspection.
Secret ballots are only allowed for the election of board officers.
9. The board may legally reconvene in open session as long as that intent was
noted in the public notice of the meeting. If there was no notice given that
the board intended to reconvene in open session, the board is required to
wait at least 12 hours after the completion of the closed session before
reconvening in open session.
Library trustees should be aware that Wisconsin's open meetings law is designed to
support the principle that "the public is entitled to the fullest and most complete
information regarding the affairs of government as is compatible with the conduct of
government business". To this end, all meetings of all state and local government
bodies must be publicly held in places reasonably accessible to members of the public
unless otherwise expressly provided by law. The specific statutory exemptions that may
allow for a closed session are in Section 19.85. Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 19 is
available in PDF format at http://www.legis.state.wi.us/statutes/01Stat0019.pdf
Any library board member who knowingly attends a meeting in violation of the open
meetings law will be required to forfeit, without reimbursement from the library or
municipality, not less than $25 and as much as $300 per violation. In addition, a court
may void board actions taken in an illegal closed session. A board member is not
legally liable if he or she voted against those actions that the board took which caused
the violation. Therefore, it is recommended that a board member who believes the
purpose stated for the motion to close a meeting is not legally sufficient should vote
against the motion. In addition, board members should confirm that proper notice has
been given for each board meeting.
Last updated on 8-24-2005
- Marathon County Public Library
300 North First Street Wausau WI 54403 USA
Account Status: 715-261-7209 (24/7)