June 29, 2022

Is Your Committee Complying with the Open Meetings Act?

The Open Meetings Act establishes a right of access to public meetings. The General Assembly recognized that the formation of public policy is public business and should not be conducted in secret.

The Act requires all meetings of “public agencies” be open to the public when:

  1. a quorum is present; and 
  2. public business is discussed or action is taken.

    The entire legislative body is a “public agency” subject to the statutory requirements of the Act. The definition of public agency found in KRS 61.805 also includes “any body created by or pursuant to state or local statute, executive order, ordinance, resolution, or other legislative act in the legislative or executive branch of government;” and “any board, commission, committee, subcommittee, ad hoc committee, advisory committee, council, or agency” established and controlled by a public agency.

    It is common practice for cities to formally establish smaller groups (committees, subcommittees, advisory boards, etc.) to discuss legislative items more in-depth. These smaller groups are independent “public agencies” for the purposes of the Open Meetings Act. Therefore, the number of committee members needed to create a quorum may differ from the number needed to constitute a quorum of the legislative body.

    For example, a council of six members creates a budget committee consisting of three council members. A quorum of the council is four members. However, two committee members would be considered a quorum of the committee. If two of the three committee members were meeting to discuss public business, the committee would have to notice a regular or special meeting and comply with all other aspects of the Act.

    It is important to note that the members of the committee, board, commission, etc., do not have to be legislative body members, nor do they have to have the authority to take final action for the Open Meetings Act to apply.

    Relevant Attorney General Opinions:

    • OAG 78-496.: A committee formally appointed by a public agency is subject to the Open Meetings Law to the same extent as the agency.
    • 95-OMD-124: An advisory committee created by a county judge/executive to consider ambulance and emergency medical services for the county is a public agency under the Open Meetings Act.
    • 05-OMD-11: An advisory committee created by the city is a public agency under the Open Meetings Act, even though the committee lacks the authority to take any final action.
    • 19-OMD-092: An advisory council created by the state’s chief information officer constituted a public agency that must comply in all respects with the Open Meetings Act.

    Cities may be inadvertently violating the Open Meetings Act by creating formal committees or advisory groups that do not follow the Act’s requirements. The KLC Municipal Law Department staff urges you to work with your city attorney to determine if your committees are compliant. Contact the Municipal Law Department with questions concerning the Open Meetings Act.