Virginia Open Meetings Law

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The Virginia Open Meetings Law legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted. Statutes ----- of the State code define the law.

Relevant legal cases

See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA

Here is a list of open meetings lawsuits in Virginia. For more information go the page or go to Virginia sunshine lawsuits.
(The cases are listed alphabetically. To order them by year please click the icon to the right of the Year heading)


We do not currently have any pages on open meetings litigation in Virginia.


Proposed open meetings legislation

2010

See also Proposed transparency legislation, Open meetings legislation


We do not currently have any legislation for Virginia in 2010.


Statement of purpose

The statement of purpose of the Open Meetings Act states,
"By enacting this chapter, the General Assembly ensures the people of the Commonwealth ready access to public records in the custody of a public body or its officers and employees, and free entry to meetings of public bodies wherein the business of the people is being conducted. The affairs of government are not intended to be conducted in an atmosphere of secrecy since at all times the public is to be the beneficiary of any action taken at any level of government. Unless a public body or its officers or employees specifically elect to exercise an exemption provided by this chapter or any other statute, every meeting shall be open to the public and all public records shall be available for inspection and copying upon request. All public records and meetings shall be presumed open, unless an exemption is properly invoked. The provisions of this chapter shall be liberally construed to promote an increased awareness by all persons of governmental activities and afford every opportunity to citizens to witness the operations of government. Any exemption from public access to records or meetings shall be narrowly construed and no record shall be withheld or meeting closed to the public unless specifically made exempt pursuant to this chapter or other specific provision of law. This chapter shall not be construed to discourage the free discussion by government officials or employees of public matters with the citizens of the Commonwealth."[1]

Which government meetings are open to the public?

The law states that a meeting is any gathering, whether in person or through the use of electronic communication, of at least three members of a public body or a quorum if it is less than three members whether or not a vote is taken.

Notable exemptions to this definition include:

  • the gathering of public employees[2]
  • Chance or social gatherings that were not used to circumvent the act
  • public forums or debates designed to inform the electorate[3]

What government bodies are subject to the laws?

The act defines government body as any legislative body or authority of the state or any of its political subdivisions as well as any other organizations supported by public funds. The act explicitly includes the Virginia Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Program and all entities created by a public body to either wield power or advise the public body.[2]

==== Legislature====

No.pngf

The legislature is explicitly exempted from the Virginia Open Meetings Law under Code of Virginia 2.2-3707 and is left to decide its own rules with regard to open meetings.

Notice requirements

The act requires all public bodies to post notice of all meetings at least three working days prior to the meeting. For special or emergency meetings the act requires notification to be posted at the same time as the members of the public body are notified. The public body is also obligated to contact all individuals who have requested notification.[3]

Meeting process

The act requires all public bodies to take minutes at open meetings, to include the time and place of the meeting, the members in attendance and any subjects discussed or votes taken.[3] Minutes must be made available within 5 working days of the original meeting and final minutes within three working days of approval.[4] The requirements for meetings do not apply to the committees of the legislature, study committees appointed by the governor and the legislature and any study committees appointed by other bodies. Anyone may record an open public meeting.[3] Secret voting is not permitted and all votes must be made visibly and recorded.[5]

Executive sessions

Common executive session exemptions
Personal privacy (including employees)Yes.pngp
Attorney-client privilege/litigationYes.pngp
Security/police informationYes.pngp
Purchase or sale of propertyYes.pngp
Union negotiations
Licensing exams/decisionsYes.pngp
Exempt under other lawsYes.pngp

A public body may convene a closed executive session with a majority of the vote for the following reasons[6]:

  • discussions of employment, employment conditions, discipline and resignation of public employees
  • discussions of student records
  • the purchase or sale of property
  • to protect the privacy of individuals and businesses
  • to discuss prospective or expanding business potentials
  • investment of public funds, where release would involve a loss of competitive edge
  • matters relating to attorney-client privilege
  • for visiting foreign boards and dignitaries to state universities
  • for discussion of specific gifts receive by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Virginia Museum of Natural History, and The Science Museum of Virginia
  • to discuss honorary degrees or special awards
  • discussions of examinations
  • disciplinary actions in the House or Senate
  • Hazardous waste citing agreements
  • Discussions with the governor on economic forecasts
  • discussions of medical or mental records
  • licensing and appeal action by the State Lottery Board
  • anything that would identify police informants
  • safety and security information
  • State Child Fatality Review meetings discussing the death of a particular child
  • The University of Virginia Medical Center or Eastern Virginia Medical School may close to discuss proprietary information
  • The Health Practitioners' Monitoring Program Committee within the Department of Health Professions when discussing an impaired physician
  • Board of the Virginia College Savings Plan when discussing participants in the program
  • Wireless Carrier E-911 Cost Recovery Subcommittee concerning trade secrets
  • Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, Department of Health Professions, or the Board of Accountancy when conducting disciplinary hearings
  • discussing matters exempt under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act
  • discussions of awarding a contract, where the release of the information would negativle impact the contract negotiations
  • discussing grant or loan applications
  • any discussions of confidential trade secrets
  • State Board of Elections when discussing voting security
  • Discussions of Forensic Science Board or the Scientific Advisory Committee
  • Brown v. Board of Education Scholarship Program Awards Committee when discussing student records or scholarship amounts[7]

No final action can be taken during closed session.[6]

If violated

Any person may bring charges against a public body in violation of the open meetings act. The court may assess fines between $250-$1000 for the first offense and $1000-$2500 for all subsequent offenses.[8]


See also

External links

References