Q: When is a corporation/organization a “quasi-governmental corporation” subject to the Open Meetings Law?
A: The Open Meetings Law applies only to governmental bodies as defined by section 19.82(1), Stats., and includes governmental and quasi-governmental corporations. In addition to the statutory definition, the DOJ’s Compliance Guide includes a helpful listing of some specific “governmental bodies” as previously determined by the Attorney General, including a planning commission or zoning board of appeal, a committee appointed by the school superintendent to consider school library materials, departments of formally constituted subunits of the University of Wisconsin system or campus, and a county board of adjusters. Wisconsin Department of Justice, Wisconsin Open Meetings Law: A Compliance Guide 2 (2005).
The term “quasi-governmental” is not defined and, therefore, is determined on a case by case basis. 80 Wis. Op Att’y Gen. 129 (1991) (OAG 20-91). Currently, there is no clear-cut rule or standard for this determination. Factors taken into account (but not necessarily considered sufficient for any particular outcome) by the Attorney General in previous opinions and letters include: whether or not the corporation serves a public function; how much funding comes from public sources; the fact that the bylaws reserve directors’ positions for specified government officials; whether or not officers are appointed by a government body; and whether or not the corporation is housed in government offices and/or uses government staff and/or equipment. Wisconsin Department of Justice, Wisconsin Open Meetings Law: A Compliance Guide 3 (2003).
Corporations created directly by the legislature or other governmental bodies pursuant to statutory authorization or direction are included in “governmental” or “quasi-governmental” designations. For example, a volunteer fire department created by private citizens is not a “governmental body,” but one created by a town ordinance is. 66 Op. Att’y Gen. 113 (1977) (OAG 32-77).
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