Policy of the Open Meetings Law
The State of Wisconsin recognized the importance of having a public informed about governmental affairs. The state's open meeting law declares that:
The open meetings law applies to every "meeting" of a "governmental body". Section 19.83, Wisconsin Statutes. The terms "meeting" and "governmental body" are defined in section 19.82(1) and (2) of the Wisconsin Statutes.
Open meetings requirements apply to a "governmental body". Whether or not a group is a governmental body depends on the source of its creation. If a group has been created by constitution, statute, ordinance, rule or order, the body is a governmental body. A formally constituted subunit of a governmental body is also a governmental body. For example, the Board of Regents has been created by statute, it is therefore a governmental body. Its committees (subunits of the Board) are also governmental bodies because they have been created by a parent governmental body. In some instances, a body created by an individual is also a governmental body. When the head of a governmental body performs functions delegated to him or her by the governmental body itself and he or she appoints a committee, it has been held that such a committee is also a governmental body.
In the UW System, departments have been created by rule (see section UWS 1.03, Wisconsin Administrative Code). Therefore, they are governmental bodies. Subunits of a department are also governmental bodies. Thus, if a department study committee or a department ad hoc committee is created by the department, each is a governmental body.
The academic structures of our universities have also been approved by the Board of Regents. Therefore, for example, college-level committees comprised of department representatives are governmental bodies.
The Faculty Senate and an Academic Staff Assembly are governmental bodies because they are created as a result of authority from the statutes. Their meetings ard the meetings of committees created by the Senate or Assembly, whether they are "standing committees" or "ad hoc committees" are subject to the open meetings law.
When a student government association is meeting to exercise its authority under section 36.09(5), Wisconsin Statutes, concerning the formulation of policies on student life, services, and interest, and the disposition of segregated fees, it is subject to the requirements of the open meetings law.
There also are instances where a committee created by an individual has been deemed a governmental body; for example, the Strategic Planning and Budget Committee (SPBC). In this example, the Chancellor has been delegated by the Board of Regents, all necessary authority for the administration of the University within the policies and guidelines established by the Board. It is arguable that his authority to create the committee is derived from the authority granted by the Board, a "governmental body". As a result, it is prudent to treat committees such as SPBC as a governmental body.
Definition of Meeting
What is Required if the Open Meetings Law Applies
The two most basic requirements of the open meetings law are that a governmental body:
The three designated locations for posting the notices at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater are:
Except for meetings of a department or its subunits, a notice of a meeting of a governmental body must include the time, date, place and subject matter of the meeting, including the subject that may be considered in closed session, or such form as is reasonably likely to apprise members of the public and the news media thereof.
The control of notices of a meeting of a department or its subunits may be less detailed. Such a meeting notice must be reasonably likely to apprise interested persons, and news media who have filed written requests for such notice.
Every public notice of a meeting must be given at least twenty-four hours in advance of the meeting, unless "for good cause" such notices is "impossible or impractical". If "good cause" exists, the notice should be given as soon as possible and must be given at least two hours in advance of the meeting.
Marketing and Media Relations must receive notice from a governmental body, no less than 48 hours in advance of the scheduled meeting time. The notice should include the following information: Name of group (department, governing body, etc.), location, date and time, expected duration, and a brief description of items to be discussed. Also include name of contact, campus phone number, and office. Please send this via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The information will then be sent out for positing.
The Director of Marketing and Media Relations is responsible to post and publish the meeting notice to meet the 24 hour posting requirement, if received by the 48 hour deadline. If received after the 48 hour deadline and if the 24 hour requirement is not met, the governmental body is responsible for failure to meet posting requirements.
Source of information for policy is the Wisconsin Department of Justice
"Wisconsin Open Meetings Law, A compliance Guide 1993". If there are questions
of interpretation, contact the Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs.
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