If our board is having a holiday party, is that considered a meeting and do we need to notice it?
December 19, 2016
Generally speaking a party is a social gathering* and not considered a meeting, and there certainly is a fine line between what constitutes a meeting and what does not. Since there is always the temptation to discuss district business when you are all gathered together in the same place, each board member needs to be mindful to refrain from discussing district business. You are free to discuss any other matters at your party except that which falls upon the school board’s scope of responsibility. Therefore, since party is a social gathering and not a meeting, it does not need to be noticed.
A few considerations on what constitutes a meeting (which then necessitates posting a notice):
• Any time that you have a quorum of the Board present and district issues are being discussed, you run the risk of it being considered a meeting;
• The Oregon Attorney General’s Public Records and Meeting Manual provides:
*b. Subject of Meetings and Social Gatherings
The Public Meetings Law applies to all meetings of a quorum of a governing body for which a quorum is required in order to make a decision or to deliberate toward a decision on any matter. Even if a meeting is for the sole purpose of gathering information to serve as the basis for a subsequent decision or recommendation by the governing body, the meetings law will apply.307 This requirement serves the policy expressed at ORS 192.620 that an informed public must be aware not only of the decisions of government, but also of “the information upon which such decisions were made.” Hence, except for on-site inspections, discussed below under Statutorily Exempt Public Meetings, information gathering and investigative activities of a governing body are subject to the law. If the requirements of the law would unduly hamper an investigation, the body could direct members to make individual reports to the governing body as discussed above under Quorum Requirements.
If a quorum of a governing body gathers to discuss matters outside its jurisdiction, it is not “meeting” within the purview of the Public Meetings (p. 376 of pdf).
• Public perception. If a community member sees a quorum attending, they are going to automatically think that there is a meeting. If at a future Board meeting, a Board member refers back to information that was gathered at the holiday party and a decision is made based on that information, the public will certainly want to know what was discussed at the party.
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