These guidelines are intended to assist members of the University community in complying with University Policy 605.7, Open Meetings Requirements, which provides policies and procedures for complying with the North Carolina Open Meetings Law.
1. Public Bodies--What campus bodies are covered?
If all of the following characteristics apply, the body is deemed a "public body":
- It is established by or at the direction of the Chancellor and/or a Vice Chancellor;
- The membership does not consist exclusively of administrative officers of the University;
- It is composed of two or more members;
- Its designated function or subject-matter jurisdiction is University-wide; and
- It is expressly authorized or directed--
- to legislate, make policy, adjudicate, or take administrative action, or
- to make findings concerning or to recommend legislative, policy-making, quasi-judicial, or administrative action.
In addition, because the Faculty Council, Hearing Committee, and Grievance Committee are established by the Board of Governors, those bodies are also subject to the open meetings requirements.
2. Official Meetings--What meetings are covered?
An "official meeting" is a meeting at any time or place, including by telephone conference or other electronic means, of a majority of the members of a public body for the purpose of conducting hearings, participating in deliberations, or voting upon or otherwise transacting the public business.
NOTE: An "official" meeting of a public body does not occur if it is a meeting solely among the professional staff of a public body.
3. Notice--How does a public body meet the requirement to give public notice of its meetings?
The Chair or other principal officer of a public body ("responsible officer") is responsible for giving notice of all official meetings to the Office of Public Relations. The Office of Public Relations handles all public notice requests after the responsible officer delivers the regular schedule, revised schedule, or notice of special or emergency meetings.
If the public body's meetings are regularly scheduled on an annual or semi-annual basis, the meetings are considered "regular." The responsible officer must keep on file a schedule showing the date, time, and place of regular meetings of the public body. If the public body revises its schedule of regular meetings, the responsible officer must have that revised schedule on file at least seven (7) calendar days before the first meeting to which the new schedule applies.
If the public body does not have a schedule of regular meetings, its meetings are considered "special" meetings, and the responsible officer must file written notice of the date, time, place, and purpose of each meeting with the Office of Public Relations at least 48 hours prior to the meeting.
An "emergency" meeting is one that is called because of unexpected circumstances that require immediate consideration by the public body. The responsible officer must notify the members of the public body and the Office of Public Relations immediately after the need for an emergency meeting is determined. For an emergency meeting, the Office of Public Relations will give public notice to those news services that have filed written requests for emergency notice, either by telephone or by the same method used to notify the members of the public body.
If a public body holds a meeting by conference call or other electronic means, the notice must provide a location and means for members of the public to listen to the meeting.
4. Minutes and Accounts--What are the requirements for keeping minutes and accounts?
All public bodies must keep full and accurate minutes of all official meetings, including any closed sessions. A "general account" of all closed sessions must also be kept, "so that a person not in attendance would have a reasonable understanding of what transpired." The minutes and accounts may be written or by audio or video recordings. As soon as the minutes and accounts of a meeting are approved, deliver the official copy to the Office of the Provost.
Minutes and accounts of closed sessions are not open to public inspection if such disclosure ". . . would frustrate the purpose" of the closed session. Note, however, that when the purpose of the closed session has been accomplished, inspection of the minutes and general account must be allowed, unless they include information privileged or confidential pursuant to State or Federal law. (See Section 5 below.) Please direct any request for meeting minutes or accounts to the Office of Legal Affairs.
5. Closed Sessions--What are the permitted purposes and proper procedures for going into and coming out of closed sessions?
Please consult with the General Counsel regarding your agenda prior to any meeting to make sure that there is no business to be conducted by your committee that either may or must be conducted in closed session.
Closed sessions may be held for the following permitted purposes only:
- to discuss information privileged or confidential pursuant to State or Federal law;
- to discuss honorary degrees, scholarships, or prizes;
- to consult with an attorney and to preserve the attorney-client privilege;
- to discuss the location or expansion of industries or businesses;
- to discuss real property acquisition (other than by gift or bequest) and employment contracts;
- to discuss personnel matters; or
- to discuss alleged criminal misconduct.
To go into a closed session, a motion specifically identifying the legal basis for meeting in closed session must properly be made and adopted at the open meeting. See the "fill-in-the-blank" written form for the motion and the list of the legal citations most commonly used to support meeting in closed session.
At the conclusion of the closed session, there must be a motion to go back into open session prior to adjourning the meeting. A motion to adjourn is invalid if it is made in closed session.
6. Written Ballots--May committee members vote by written ballot?
Public bodies may act or vote by written ballots only if (1) the ballots are signed by the individual voters, (2) the minutes of the meeting show the vote of each member voting, and (3) the ballots are available for public inspection immediately following the meeting at which the vote took place.
7. Acting by Reference--May the committee act by reference to the agenda?
A public body may deliberate, vote, or otherwise take action by reference to a designated letter or number on the agenda only if copies of the agenda, sufficiently worded to enable the public to understand what is being acted upon, are available for inspection at the meeting.
8. Public Broadcast--Can the press or public broadcast or record our meetings?
Any person may broadcast or record those parts of a meeting required to be open; however, the public body can prevent interference with the meeting and may reasonably regulate placement and use of recording equipment. The Office of Public Relations will assist you with this matter.
9. Disruptions of Official Meetings--What should we do if someone disrupts an official meeting?
If a person willfully interrupts or disturbs an official meeting and refuses to leave after being directed to leave by the presiding officer, Campus Police should be called, and the meeting may be adjourned.
10. Failure to Comply--What if we fail to comply with the requirements of the Open Meetings Law?
Any person who objects can file a lawsuit seeking injunctive relief. The court may declare any action taken during the meeting to be null and void, and may award reasonable attorney's fees. If the court finds that any individual member or members of the public body knowingly or intentionally violated the Open Meetings Law, it may order that such member or members pay personally all or any portion of such attorney's fees, unless such members consulted with an attorney and were following the attorney's advice when the violation occurred.
Updated October 28, 2015