Sub. (1) (c) does not permit closed sessions to consider employment, compensation, promotion, or performance evaluation policies to be applied to a position of employment in general. 80 Atty. Gen. 176
A governmental body may convene in closed session to formulate collective bargaining strategy, but sub. (3) requires that deliberations leading to ratification of a tentative agreement with a bargaining unit, as well as the ratification vote, must be held in open session. 81 Atty. Gen. 139
"Evidentiary hearing" as used in sub. (1) (b), means a formal examination of accusations by receiving testimony or other forms of evidence that may be relevant to the dismissal, demotion, licensing, or discipline of any public employee or person covered by that section. A council that considered a mayor's accusations against an employee in closed session without giving the employee prior notice violated the requirement of actual notice to the employee. Campana v. City of Greenfield, 38 F. Supp. 2d 1043
Closed Session, Open Book: Sifting the Sands Case. Bach. Wis. Law. Oct. 2009.
Closed sessions by ethics or elections commission. 19.851(1)(1)
Prior to convening under this section or under s. 19.85 (1)
, the ethics commission and the elections commission shall vote to convene in closed session in the manner provided in s. 19.85 (1)
. The ethics commission shall identify the specific reason or reasons under sub. (2)
and s. 19.85 (1) (a)
for convening in closed session. The elections commission shall identify the specific reason or reasons under s. 19.85 (1) (a)
for convening in closed session. No business may be conducted by the ethics commission or the elections commission at any closed session under this section except that which relates to the purposes of the session as authorized in this section or as authorized in s. 19.85 (1)
The commission shall hold each meeting of the commission for the purpose of deliberating concerning an investigation of any violation of the law under the jurisdiction of the commission in closed session under this section.
Effective date note
This section is shown as affected eff. 6-30-16 by 2015 Wis. Act 118
. Prior to 6-30-16 it reads:
Effective date text
19.851 Closed sessions by government accountability board. The government accountability board shall hold each meeting of the board for the purpose of deliberating concerning an investigation of any violation of the law under the jurisdiction of the ethics and accountability division of the board in closed session under this section. Prior to convening under this section, the government accountability board shall vote to convene in closed session in the manner provided in s. 19.85 (1). No business may be conducted by the government accountability board at any closed session under this section except that which relates to the purposes of the session as authorized in this section or as authorized in s. 19.85 (1).
History: 2007 a. 1
; 2015 a. 118
Notice of collective bargaining negotiations.
Notwithstanding s. 19.82 (1)
, where notice has been given by either party to a collective bargaining agreement under subch. I
, or V of ch. 111
to reopen such agreement at its expiration date, the employer shall give notice of such contract reopening as provided in s. 19.84 (1) (b)
. If the employer is not a governmental body, notice shall be given by the employer's chief officer or such person's designee.
This subchapter shall apply to all meetings of the senate and assembly and the committees, subcommittees and other subunits thereof, except that:
(1) Section 19.84
shall not apply to any meeting of the legislature or a subunit thereof called solely for the purpose of scheduling business before the legislative body; or adopting resolutions of which the sole purpose is scheduling business before the senate or the assembly.
No provision of this subchapter which conflicts with a rule of the senate or assembly or joint rule of the legislature shall apply to a meeting conducted in compliance with such rule.
No provision of this subchapter shall apply to any partisan caucus of the senate or any partisan caucus of the assembly, except as provided by legislative rule.
Former open meetings law, s. 66.74 (4) (g), 1973 stats., that excepted "partisan caucuses of the members" of the state legislature from coverage of the law applied to a closed meeting of the members of one political party on a legislative committee to discuss a bill. The contention that this exception was only intended to apply to the partisan caucuses of the whole houses would have been supportable if the exception were simply for "partisan caucuses of the state legislature" rather than partisan caucuses of members of the state legislature. State ex rel. Lynch v. Conta, 71 Wis. 2d 662
, 239 N.W.2d 313
In contrast to former s. 66.74 (4) (g), 1973 stats., sub. (3) applies to partisan caucuses of the houses, rather than to caucuses of members of the houses. State ex rel. Newspapers v. Showers, 135 Wis. 2d 77
, 398 N.W.2d 154
Ballots, votes and records. 19.88(1)
Unless otherwise specifically provided by statute, no secret ballot may be utilized to determine any election or other decision of a governmental body except the election of the officers of such body in any meeting.
Except as provided in sub. (1)
in the case of officers, any member of a governmental body may require that a vote be taken at any meeting in such manner that the vote of each member is ascertained and recorded.
The motions and roll call votes of each meeting of a governmental body shall be recorded, preserved and open to public inspection to the extent prescribed in subch. II of ch. 19
History: 1975 c. 426
; 1981 c. 335
The plaintiff newspaper argued that sub. (3), which requires "the motions and roll call votes of each meeting of a governmental body shall be recorded, preserved and open to public inspection," in turn, required the defendant commission to record and disclose the information the newspaper requested under the open records law. The newspaper could not seek relief under the public records law for the commission's alleged violation of the open meetings law and could not recover reasonable attorney fees, damages, and other actual costs under s. 19.37 (2) for an alleged violation of the open meetings law. The Journal Times v. City of Racine Board of Police and Fire Commissioners, 2015 WI 56
, 362 Wis. 2d 577
, 866 N.W.2d 563
Under sub. (1), a common council may not vote to fill a vacancy on the common council by secret ballot. 65 Atty. Gen. 131.
Exclusion of members.
No duly elected or appointed member of a governmental body may be excluded from any meeting of such body. Unless the rules of a governmental body provide to the contrary, no member of the body may be excluded from any meeting of a subunit of that governmental body.
History: 1975 c. 426
Use of equipment in open session.
Whenever a governmental body holds a meeting in open session, the body shall make a reasonable effort to accommodate any person desiring to record, film or photograph the meeting. This section does not permit recording, filming or photographing such a meeting in a manner that interferes with the conduct of the meeting or the rights of the participants.
History: 1977 c. 322
Any member of a governmental body who knowingly attends a meeting of such body held in violation of this subchapter, or who, in his or her official capacity, otherwise violates this subchapter by some act or omission shall forfeit without reimbursement not less than $25 nor more than $300 for each such violation. No member of a governmental body is liable under this subchapter on account of his or her attendance at a meeting held in violation of this subchapter if he or she makes or votes in favor of a motion to prevent the violation from occurring, or if, before the violation occurs, his or her votes on all relevant motions were inconsistent with all those circumstances which cause the violation.
History: 1975 c. 426
The state need not prove specific intent to violate the Open Meetings Law. State v. Swanson, 92 Wis. 2d 310
, 284 N.W.2d 655
This subchapter shall be enforced in the name and on behalf of the state by the attorney general or, upon the verified complaint of any person, by the district attorney of any county wherein a violation may occur. In actions brought by the attorney general, the court shall award any forfeiture recovered together with reasonable costs to the state; and in actions brought by the district attorney, the court shall award any forfeiture recovered together with reasonable costs to the county.
In addition and supplementary to the remedy provided in s. 19.96
, the attorney general or the district attorney may commence an action, separately or in conjunction with an action brought under s. 19.96
, to obtain such other legal or equitable relief, including but not limited to mandamus, injunction or declaratory judgment, as may be appropriate under the circumstances.
Any action taken at a meeting of a governmental body held in violation of this subchapter is voidable, upon action brought by the attorney general or the district attorney of the county wherein the violation occurred. However, any judgment declaring such action void shall not be entered unless the court finds, under the facts of the particular case, that the public interest in the enforcement of this subchapter outweighs any public interest which there may be in sustaining the validity of the action taken.
If the district attorney refuses or otherwise fails to commence an action to enforce this subchapter within 20 days after receiving a verified complaint, the person making such complaint may bring an action under subs. (1)
on his or her relation in the name, and on behalf, of the state. In such actions, the court may award actual and necessary costs of prosecution, including reasonable attorney fees to the relator if he or she prevails, but any forfeiture recovered shall be paid to the state.
Judicial Council Note, 1981: Reference in sub. (2) to a "writ" of mandamus has been removed because that remedy is now available in an ordinary action. See s. 781.01, stats., and the note thereto. [Bill 613-A]
Awards of attorney fees are to be at a rate applicable to private attorneys. A court may review the reasonableness of the hours and hourly rate charged, including the rates for similar services in the area, and may in addition consider the peculiar facts of the case and the responsible party's ability to pay. Hodge v. Town of Turtle Lake, 190 Wis. 2d 181
, 526 N.W.2d 784
(Ct. App. 1994).
Actions brought under the open meetings and open records laws are exempt form the notice provisions of s. 893.80. Auchinleck v. Town of LaGrange, 200 Wis. 2d 585
, 547 N.W.2d 587
Failure to bring an action under this section on behalf of the state is fatal and deprives the court of competency to proceed. Fabyan v. Achtenhagen, 2002 WI App 214
, 257 Wis. 2d. 310, 652 N.W.2d 649
Complaints under the open meetings law are not brought in the individual capacity of the plaintiff but on behalf of the state, subject to the 2-year statue of limitations under s. 893.93 (2). Leung v. City of Lake Geneva, 2003 WI App 129
, 265 Wis. 2d 674
, 666 N.W.2d 104
When a town board's action was voided by the court due to lack of statutory authority, an action for enforcement under sub. (4) by an individual as a private attorney general on behalf of the state against individual board members for a violation of the open meetings law that would subject the individual board members to civil forfeitures was not rendered moot. Lawton v. Town of Barton, 2005 WI App 16
, 278 Wis. 2d 388
, 692 N.W.2d 304
Interpretation by attorney general.
Any person may request advice from the attorney general as to the applicability of this subchapter under any circumstances.
History: 1975 c. 426