Closing a Public Meeting Under Minnesota’s Open Meeting Law

Under the Minnesota Open Meeting Law (the “OML”), a public body’s meetings must be open to the public unless the OML or another Minnesota law provides an exemption that allows or requires a meeting to be closed. A list of exemptions stated in the OML can be found at the end of this post. Closing a public meeting means that any materials, like a privileged legal report or a document containing confidential information, and discussions related to the closed meeting aren’t open to the public.[1]

Closed meetings are conducted similar to open meetings. Like open meetings, adequate notice must be provided for closed meetings and, except for meetings closed by attorney-client privilege, closed meetings must be recorded, and the recording must be preserved for at least three years.[2] In addition, the OML sets forth specific procedural requirements for discussion of certain issues or topics in a closed meeting.

Failure to properly conduct a closed meeting may result in a penalty of up to $300, and multiple violations may result in a person being forced to resign from a public body.[3] In addition, a court may award reasonable costs, disbursements, and reasonable attorney fees to a prevailing party (i.e., losing party pay’s the winner’s costs).

Exemptions Allowing or Requiring the Closing of a Public Meeting:

  • Discussion of “data that would identify alleged victims or reporters of criminal sexual conduct, domestic abuse, or maltreatment of minors of vulnerable adults.” Minn. Stat. § 13D.05, subd. 2(a)(1).
  • Discussion of “active investigation data as defined in section 13.82, subdivision 7, or internal affairs data relating to allegations of law enforcement personnel misconduct collected or created by a state agency, statewide system, or political subdivision.” Minn. Stat. § 13D.05, subd. 2(a)(2).
  • Discussion of “educational data, health data, medical data, welfare data, or mental health data that are not public data under section 13.32, subdivision 1, 13.384, or 13.46, subdivision 2 or 7.” Minn. Stat. § 13D.05, subd. 2(a)(3).
  • Discussion of “an individual’s medical records governed by sections 144.291 to 144.298.” Minn. Stat. § 13D.05, subd. 2(a)(4).
  • “Preliminary consideration of allegations or charges against an individual subject to its authority” unless the individual who is the subject of the meeting requests the meeting be open in which case the meeting must be open. “If the members conclude that discipline of any nature may be warranted as a result of those specific charges or allegations, further meetings or hearings relating to those specific charges or allegations held after that conclusion is reached must be open.” Minn. Stat. § 13D.05, subd. 2(b).
  • Consideration of “strategy for labor negotiations, including negotiation strategies or developments or discussion and review of labor negotiation proposals, conducted pursuant to sections 179A.01 to 179A.25.” Minn. Stat. § 13D.03, subd. 1(b).
  • Disclosure of not public data “if the disclosure relates to a matter within the scope of the public body’s authority and is reasonably necessary to conduct the business or agenda item before the public body.” Minn. Stat. § 13D.05, subd. 1(b).
  • Discussion of “the performance of an individual who is subject to its authority” unless the individual who is the subject of the meeting requests the meeting be open in which case the meeting must be open. Minn. Stat. § 13D.05, subd. 3(a).
  • If expressly permitted by statute. Minn. Stat. § 13D.05, subd. 3(b).
  • If permitted by attorney-client privilege. Minn. Stat. § 13D.05, subd. 3(b).
  • “To determine the asking price for real or personal property to be sold by the government entity.” Minn. Stat. § 13D.05, subd. 3(c)(1).
  • “To develop or consider offers or counteroffers for the purchase or sale of real or personal property.” Minn. Stat. § 13D.05, subd. 3(c)(3).
  • “To receive security briefings and reports, to discuss issues related to security systems, to discuss emergency response procedures, and to discuss security deficiencies in or recommendations regarding public services, infrastructure, and facilities, if disclosure of the information discussed would pose a danger to public safety or compromise security procedures or responses.” Minn. Stat. § 13D.05, subd. 3(d).

[1] See Minn. Stat. § 13D.01, subd. 6(b). See also Minn. Stat. Ch. 13 (Government Data Practices).
[2] Minn. Stat. §§ 13D.03, subd. 5 & .05, subd. 1(d).
[3] See Minn. Stat. § 13D.06 (2008).

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