Closed Session Procedures

History
Permitted Topics for Discussion
The Open Meetings Law allows the discussion of limited topics during a closed session. The matters which appear most likely to concern the Town are as follows:
  • To consult with the Town's attorney in order to preserve the attorney-client privilege between the attorney and the public body; the council may consider and give instructions to the attorney concerning the handling or settlement of a claim, judicial action, or administrative procedure in closed session
  • To instruct the Town's staff concerning the position to be taken on behalf of the Town in negotiating the price and other material terms of a contract for acquisition of an interest in real property
  • Economic development matters involving a prospective new business or the expansion of an existing business or industry
  • To consider the performance, qualifications, or fitness of an employee or applicant for Town employment or office under the council's jurisdiction; this provision does not allow consideration of fitness or performance of a member or prospective member of the council or another public body to be considered in closed session
Attendance
The mayor and members of the council and only those persons necessary for a discussion should be permitted to be present in closed session. Permitting unnecessary persons to be in attendance could lead to serious problems as to whether or not they were present as members of the public while other members of the public were excluded.

No final action may be taken in closed session, except in a very few cases as provided by North Carolina law. Minutes shall be kept of all closed sessions. Such minutes may be withheld from public inspection so long as public inspection would frustrate the purpose of a closed session. Where final action in closed session is authorized, minutes indicating what action was taken would be required to be made public at a later date as provided by the Open Meetings Law.

Calling a Closed Session
The council may hold a closed session only upon a motion duly made and adopted at an open meeting. The motion shall cite one or more of the purposes permitted by the Open Meetings Law and shall otherwise conform to the requirements of the Open Meetings Law. Generally, the town attorney or town clerk will be expected to prepare specific language for the council to use in a motion to go into closed session.

Disclosure to the Public
The reason for permitting closed sessions at all indicates that the details of the subject matter should not be revealed, otherwise the purpose of the session is defeated. It is the council's policy that no councilmember or other person present at a closed session may disclose details about discussions held in closed session until such time as the purpose for the closed session would no longer be frustrated by the disclosure of information.

General Account & Minutes
North Carolina law requires that a “general account” of each closed session be kept, giving enough detail as to provide the public with a reasonable explanation of what took place in closed session. The general account may be used as the minutes of the closed session when the minutes of the closed session are not sealed by the Town Council.

In some cases, the Town Council may order that the minutes of the closed session be sealed for a time. Whenever the council desires that the minutes be sealed, it should direct the town clerk to immediately prepare the minutes of the action or discussion to be sealed. While in closed session, the town clerk will quickly write the minutes and then read them for the council’s approval. Once a motion is carried to approve and seal the minutes, the minutes will be placed in an envelope in the Minutes Book with a notation on the envelope containing enough information so that it can be determined when the minutes can be revealed.

The town clerk and town attorney periodically will review sets of sealed minutes and determine when the envelopes can be opened. With no further action by the council, the minutes will be unsealed and placed in the Minute Book as addendum pages to the open session minutes of the same date.