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OPEN Government

The Open Meetings Law

The Open Meetings Law (Wisconsin Statutes §§ 19.81-19.98) promotes democracy by ensuring that all state, regional, and local governments conduct their business with transparency. The law requires that officials notify the public by giving public notice before any government meeting takes place. The law also says that “all discussion shall be held and all action of any kind, formal or informal, shall be initiated, deliberated upon and acted upon only in open session.”

Group of people seated in a room listening to presentation at a meeting

WHO DOES THE OPEN MEETINGS LAW APPLY TO?

The Open Meetings Law applies to all state and local governmental bodies.

Governmental bodies include:

  • State or local agencies, boards, commissions, committees, councils and departments
  • Governmental corporations that have been created directly by state legislature or some other governmental body that serve a public purpose
  • Quasi-governmental corporations that significantly resemble government corporations in function, effect, or status

WHAT COUNTS AS A MEETING?

A meeting means the convening of one half or more of the members of a governmental body to exercise the responsibilities, authority, power or duties delegated to or vested in the body.

In the case State ex rel. Newspapers, Inc. v. Showers, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided that a gathering is a meeting governed by open meetings law if:

  1. There is a purpose to engage in governmental business
     AND
  2. The number of members present is sufficient to determine the governmental
    body’s course of action