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West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act
The West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted. Statute 6-9A of the West Virginia 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 West Virginia. For more information go the page or go to West 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 West Virginia.
Proposed open meetings legislation
We do not currently have any legislation for West Virginia in 2010.
Statement of purposeThe statement of purpose of the Open Meetings Act states,
"The Legislature hereby finds and declares that public agencies in this state exist for the singular purpose of representing citizens of this state in governmental affairs, and it is, therefore, in the best interests of the people of this state for the proceedings of public agencies be conducted openly, with only a few clearly defined exceptions. The Legislature hereby further finds and declares that the citizens of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the governmental agencies that serve them. The people in delegating authority do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for them to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments of government created by them.
Open government allows the public to educate itself about government decision-making through individuals' attendance and participation at government functions, distribution of government information by the press or interested citizens, and public debate on issues deliberated within the government. Public access to information promotes attendance at meetings, improves planning of meetings, and encourages more thorough preparation and complete discussion of issues by participating officials. The government also benefits from openness because better preparation and public input allow government agencies to gauge public preferences accurately and thereby tailor their actions and policies more closely to public needs. Public confidence and understanding ease potential resistance to government programs. Accordingly, the benefits of openness inure to both the public affected by governmental decision-making and the decision makers themselves. The Legislature finds, however, that openness, public access to information and a desire to improve the operationof government do not require nor permit every meeting to be a public meeting. The Legislature finds that it would be unrealistic, if not impossible, to carry on the business of government should every meeting, every contact and every discussion seeking advice and counsel in order to acquire the necessary information, data or intelligence needed by a governing body were required to be a public meeting. It is the intent of the Legislature to balance these interests in order to allow government to function and the public to participate in a meaningful manner in public agency decision-making."[
Which government meetings are open to the public?
The law states that a meeting is any gathering of a quorum of the members of a public body in order to deliberate and decide on public policy.
Notable exemptions to this definition include:
- judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings
- on site inspections
- single party caucuses
- discussion of public business at "a planned or unplanned social, educational, training, informal, ceremonial or similar setting" where no intention of action exists
- when discussing scheduling or rescheduling meetings
What government bodies are subject to the laws?
The act defines government body as any public agency which has the authority to advise or make decisions regarding public policy. The act defines public agency as any administrative or legislative organization of the state or any of its political subdivisions.
Notable exemptions to the definition of public body include:
- the courts
The legislature falls under the definition of public body found at West Virginia Statute § 6-9A-2. and is subject to the West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act. Specifically, any standing, select or special committee, except the commission on special investigations is subject to the act.
The act requires all public bodies to develop their own policies regarding the announcement of regularly scheduled and special meetings so as to provide reasonable access to public meetings. The executive branch of the state is required to post its meetings 5 days in advance with the state register.
The act requires that all public bodies record accurate minutes of their meetings to include the date and location of the meeting, the members present, all proposals and discussions and the detailed recording of all votes taken and their results. These minutes must be made available to the public within a reasonable amount of time.
|Common executive session exemptions|
|Personal privacy (including employees)|
|Purchase or sale of property|
|Exempt under other laws|
Public bodies can convene executive sessions with a majority vote for the following reasons:
- to consider acts of war or civil insurrection
- to consider employment, discipline, termination or resignation of public employees, unless the public employee requests an open meeting
- hearings on complaints against public employees
- student disciplinary hearings
- to issue, suspend or deny a license
- when discussing the physical or mental health of a person
- any materials whose disclosure would result in an unwarranted invasion of privacy
- investigation materials
- to discuss the purchase or sale of property
- to avoid premature disclosure of awards
- to discuss pending settlements
- the act limits the attorney-client privilege to only pending litigation and settlements and not any occasion at which the attorney is present
- to discuss matters exempted under the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act or federal statute or court order
All legal actions taken against a public body in violation of the act must be made within 120 days of the meeting or decision in question. Actions taken during meetings in violation of the open meetings act can be voided by a circuit court. Courts may also assess fines of up to $500 for their first violation and between $100-$1000 for the second violation. The court may assess attorney fees to either party, if it finds that the public body violated the open meetings act of if it finds that the litigation was frivolous or design ed to harass the public body.
State of West Virginia
|State executive officers||
Governor | Lieutenant Governor | Attorney General | Secretary of State | Treasurer | State Auditor | Superintendent of Schools | Commissioner of Insurance | Commissioner of Agriculture | Director of Natural Resources | Commissioner of Labor | Chairman of Public Service Commission |