The Great Bend City Council Monday night emerged from the second of two 15-minute executive sessions only to take no action and adjourn the meeting.
According to the agenda as read by Mayor Mike Allison, the council went into its first closed session for “matters that would be deemed privileged in the attorney-client relationship.” They came out of this session and immediately went into the second for the same reason.
However, the Great Bend Tribune pressed the council on its reason for going behind closed doors. Citing the Kansas Open Meetings Act, the Tribune noted that when a governing body recesses into an executive session, it must state “(1) the justification for closing the meeting, (2) the subjects to be discussed during the closed or executive meeting,” and the duration of the session.
The Tribune contended that both the justification and subject requirements were not met. However, Allison, dismissed the claim and contended that the council’s initial statement was adequate.
While attorney-client privilege is an accepted reason for an executive session under the Kansas Open Meetings Act, KSA 75-4319 also requires a “justification” for the session. Page eight of the Kansas Attorney General’s Citizen’s Guide to KOMA defines the justification as “A brief description of the topic to be discussed in executive session without revealing confidential information.”
Other topics acceptable under KOMA for executive sessions include: Personnel matters regarding non-elected personnel; employer-employee negotiations; confidential data relating to financial affairs or trade secrets of corporations, partnerships, trusts or individual proprietorships; matters relating to students, patients or residents of a public institution. But the law states that the specific topic must be outlined when the session is announced.
No action may be taken in an executive session, and discussions must not stray from this topic. The governing body must reconvene in open session to take action.
Another stipulation of KOMA is that the governing body must state in advance of the executive session who will be included, and only those individuals can be involved. Monday night, the sessions included council members Brock McPherson, Cory Zimmerman, Dana Dawson, Joel Jackson, Vicki Berryman, Allene Owen and Mike Boys, as well as Allison and City Attorney Bob Suelter. Not in the session was City Administrator Howard Partington.