Evaluations

May a public body perform an evaluation of an employee in executive session?

No. Deliberations conducted for the explicit purpose of evaluating the professional competency of an individual may not occur during an executive session. See G.L. c. 30A, §21(a)(1). While conclusions drawn from deliberations about professional competency may be part of a deliberation for another executive session purpose, the evaluation of professional competency, itself, must occur during an open session. For example, as part of the discussion in preparation for renegotiating a superintendent's contract, a school committee may wish to consider the results of an annual professional competency evaluation. The evaluation results may be considered as part of deliberations about strategy held in executive session, however only after deliberations about professional competency were held during a previously convened open session.

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Are individual evaluations completed by members of public bodies public records?

Yes. The Open Meeting Law carves out an exception from the personnel records exemption from the Public Records Law for "materials used in a performance evaluation of an individual bearing on his professional competence," that were created by members of a public body and used during a meeting. See G.L. c. 30A, §22(e). Individual evaluations created and used by members of a public body for the purpose of evaluating an employee are public records. Comprehensive evaluations that aggregate the individual public body members' evaluations are also public records if they are used during the course of a meeting. However, evaluations conducted by individuals who are not members of public bodies are not public records. For example, the individual evaluations created by municipal employees in response to a request for feedback on the town administrator are not public records, provided the employees completing the evaluations are not also members of the public body tasked with evaluating the town administrator's professional competency.

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May the individual evaluations of an employee be aggregated into a comprehensive evaluation?

Yes. Members of a public body may individually create evaluations, and then submit them to an individual to aggregate into a master evaluation document to be discussed at an open meeting. Ideally, members of the public body should submit their evaluations for compilation to someone who is not a member of the public body, for example, an administrative assistant. If this is not a practical option, then the chair or other designated public body member may compile the evaluations. However, once the individual evaluations are submitted for aggregation there should be no deliberation among members of the public body regarding the content of the evaluations outside of an open meeting, whether in person or over email.

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May a public body discuss issues relative to the salary of a public employee in executive session?

It depends. Discussions of salary issues may only occur in executive session as part of a contract negotiation. See G.L. c. 30A, § 21(a)(2), (3). Other discussions related to salary, such as a discussion about whether an employee's job performance merits a bonus or salary increase, must be conducted in open session.

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