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Arizona Open Meetings Act

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The Arizona Open Meetings Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted. Statutes 38.431.01 of the Arizona Code define the law. The statement of purpose of the Open Meetings Act statute 38.431.01 states: "It is the public policy of this state that meetings of public bodies be conducted openly and that notices and agendas be provided for such meetings which contain such information as is reasonably necessary to inform the public of the matters to be discussed or decided. Toward this end, any person or entity charged with the interpretations of this article shall construe this article in favor of open and public meetings."[1]

Relevant legal cases

See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA

Here is a list of open meetings lawsuits in Arizona. For more information go to Arizona 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 Arizona.

Proposed open meetings legislation


See also Proposed transparency legislation, Open meetings legislation

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

Which government meetings are open to the public?

The law states that a meeting is defined as any gathering of a quorum of the members of a public body in order to deliberate and decide on public policy. These provisions include emails and telephone conversations under the definition of open meetings.[2]

Notable exemptions to this definition include:

  • Prison hearings, where the governing body can:
  • Prohibit the attendance of individuals who pose a threat to the individuals at the hearing
  • Require the signing of an attendance log
  • Prevent articles from being taken in, excluding recording devices
  • Search individuals in attendance

What government bodies are subject to the laws?

The act defines government body as all boards and commissions of the state and all subdivisions and municipalities. The act also explicitly includes the legislature as well as all private corporations and instrumentalities whose boards are either elected or appointed by the state.[2]

Notable exceptions to this definition include:

  • Judicial proceedings
  • Legislative caucuses
  • Conference committee of the legislature
  • Judiciary appointment commissions
  • Board of fingerprinting

These provisions include emails and telephone conversations.[3]

==== Legislature====


The legislature falls under the definition of public body found at Arizona Revised Statutes 38-431 and is subject to the Arizona Open Meetings Act. However, legislative caucuses are exempted.

Notice requirements

Notice of all meetings, including executive sessions, must be posted at least 24 hours in advanced of the meeting time, not including Sundays, in a conspicuous public location and online if the public body has a website. The act does permit the opening of an emergency meeting so long as it is justified and so long as any results of the meeting are posted within 24 hours. The law also permits a public body to open a meeting within 24 hours of closing another meeting, if the public body announced the next meeting at the previous open meeting. The notice must also include the agenda to the best of the governmental body's knowledge and no topics outside the posted agenda may be discussed at the meeting unless required by an emergency.[4]

Meeting process

All public bodies must take written minutes or a recording of all their meetings, including executive sessions. The minutes for non-executive sessions need to include the date, time and place of the meeting, the members in attendance, a general description of the matters considered and an accurate description of all proposals including the names of members who proposed each motion. The law also requires information on anyone who presented before the board including their names and the subjects of their presentations. All minutes and recordings must be opened to the public within three working days. Towns of over 2500 persons are required to post the decisions and a recording of their meetings online within three days of the meeting and the minutes within two working days. The act also requires all subcommittees to post any decisions and a recording of the meetings online within 10 days of the meetings. Private individuals have the right to record a meeting, provided that the recording does not interfere with the meeting.[1]

The public body may, but is not required, to open the floor to the public at one point during the meeting. However, no new agenda items can be added or voted on as a result of this open call.[1]

Executive Sessions

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

Minutes of executive sessions must include everything that public meetings include, except accurate descriptions of all legal actions proposed, discussed or taken, because these should not be conducted during executive sessions. However, the minutes of executive sessions are not open to the public but may be used in courts to determine if the material in question did fall under the executive session exemption.[1]1.01" />

Public bodies may hold private executive sessions when the public is not allowed to attend or listen to the discussions, and the public body is not permitted to take final action. Votes and polls are also forbidden during executive sessions.[5]

The only situations in which a public body may hold a closed executive session are when discussing:

  • Personnel (must provide 24 hours written notice to employee)
  • Records exempt by law from public inspection. For more information see: Arizona Public Records Law
  • Information that falls under the attorney-client privilege exemption.
  • Instructing its representative regarding labor negotiations
  • International, interstate, and tribal negotiations
  • Purchase, sale or lease of real property.[5]

If violated

Any person affected by an alleged violation may commence a suit in the county superior court in order to require compliance with this act. Any fees incurred by an accused public body cannot be paid for with public money unless the public body has specific authority to do so in its definition. They can then take a legal action at a properly noticed open meeting approving the expenditure before debt sinks in.

For each violation the court may impose a civil penalty not to exceed $500 against a violator or someone who knowingly aids, agrees to aid or attempts to aid another person in violating. The restitution will be paid either to the general public fund or to the person affected who brought the case, at the court's discretion.

If the court decides that the violation was in an effort to evade the public or to purposefully withhold information from the public, the court may remove that person from office.

Actions taken within a meeting that violated the open meetings act can be voided by the court and are subject to reconsideration by the public body.[6]

The act also sets out that the attorney general for the political division in which the violation took place is responsible for investigating the violation.[7]

See also

External links