A West Virginia Ethics Commission committee determined that local governments have the discretion to decide if information discussed during executive sessions is publicly disclosed.
The committee adopted an advisory opinion Thursday saying the state Open Governmental Meetings Act doesn’t address whether executive sessions are confidential or if there are legal consequences for public officials discussing the information shared during them outside the closed meetings, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.
The three-member committee that focuses on open governmental meetings issued the opinion in response to a question from the Harrison County Commission. County Commissioner David Hinkle said in January that what the commissioners discussed during an executive session wasn’t the item listed on the agenda, according to The Exponent Telegram.
State law allows governing bodies to meet privately during publicly announced meetings to talk about certain employment and personnel matters or legal topics. They can also discuss leasing, building, selling or buying property.
The ethics committee determined the executive sessions can be held in private, but local governments can decide whether officials are allowed to record the meetings or share the information that’s discussed. It also says governing bodies can adopt rules clearly determining the information is confidential or otherwise disclosed.
“It doesn’t mean that we’re necessarily saying that information in an executive session has to be disclosed or should be disclosed,” committee chair Lynn Davis told the Gazette-Mail. “We’re not making any kind of judgment on that. It’s just that the Open Meetings Act does not prohibit it.”