What constitutes a “meeting”?

Open Meetings Law

Q: What constitutes a “meeting”?

A: If one-half or more members (that is, a quorum) are present then there is a rebuttable presumption that the members are conducting business and, thus, a meeting is taking place. Sec. 19.82(2), Stats. The presumption can be overcome, however, with evidence that the members did not discuss or act on business related to the governmental body. The statute goes on to say that the term “meeting” does not include social or chance gatherings or other particular gatherings outlined by statute. While these “social” or “chance” gatherings are not clearly defined, the issue generally is whether or not governmental business is being addressed at the gathering.

Telephone conference calls count as meetings. 69 Wis. Op. Att’y Gen. 143 (OAG 39-80) (1980). Similarly, emails may be considered a “meeting” under the Open Meetings Law. Recently, the Attorney General listed factors used to determine whether means of communication, such as email or instant messaging, resemble a meeting or a memorandum. In an October 7, 2005 letter to Mr. Orville Seymer, the Attorney General’s office identified four factors: (1) the number of participants involved; (2) the number of communications on the particular subject matter; (3) the time frame within which the communications occurred; and (4) the extent to which the email communications resemble a conversation. See also October 3, 2000 correspondence to Tom Krischan; March 12, 2004 correspondence to Dan Benson.

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