Public Bodies

May a preliminary screening committee, which meets in executive session under purpose 8 to consider candidates for employment or appointment, consist of more than a quorum of the members of the parent body?

No, a preliminary screening committee must consist of fewer than a quorum of the members of the parent body. It may contain additional members who are not members of the parent body. For example, a school committee with seven members may create a subcommittee to conduct a preliminary screening of candidates for superintendent of schools in executive session, and the preliminary screening committee may contain up to three members of the school committee, in addition to several teachers and members of the community.

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Is a committee or board created by a public official subject to the Open Meeting Law?

It depends.

The OML does not apply to committees or boards informally appointed by individual officials to carry out duties that are assigned to such officials. Accordingly, where a public official creates a committee to advise that public official on a decision that he or she has sole responsibility for the committee or board would not be subject to the Open Meeting Law. See Connelly v. School Committee of Hanover, 409 Mass. 232 (1991), in which the SJC held that a high school principal selection committee appointed by the school superintendent to assist him in choosing candidates was not a governmental body subject to the OML. Because the superintendent could have chosen a school principal entirely on his own without creating the committee to advise him on a candidates, his informal creation of a committee did not subject the body to the Open Meeting Law.

However, where a public official creates a committee because they are required to do so by law, regulation or at the direction of a governing authority such as a City Council or Board of Selectmen, then the committee will likely be subject to the Open Meeting Law.

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