What is the difference between regular, executive session, special and work session meetings?

Oregon recognizes three types of meetings:

1. Regular board meeting: This is a meeting held on a date set at the re-organization meeting in July. It is part of the adopted board calendar for the year. The posting for a regular meeting must be made ‘a reasonable time’ before the meeting.

2. Special board meeting: Any other board meeting, not on the calendar adopted at the re-organization meeting in July. The special meeting posting must be made at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting.

3. Emergency board meeting: A meeting held due to an actual emergency. The situation is so critical that the district can’t wait for 24 hours to meet the minimum posting requirement for a special board meeting. The availability of board members or board members personal schedules to meet is NOT sufficient reason for an emergency board meeting. The board is required to make attempts to contact the media and other interested parties to notify them of the meeting. The minutes of the meeting must describe the emergency which justified less than 24 hours notice.

All three of the above may be entirely public meetings, have both a public session component and an executive session component, or the meeting may have one agenda item which is an executive session. Districts do post executive sessions as if they are stand alone meetings. However, an executive session is the part of a regular, special or emergency meeting (or it may be the entire regular, special or emergency meeting) which is exempt from the law requiring the meeting be held where the public can hear and observe the process.

In other words, ‘executive session’ isn’t necessarily by itself a separate type of meeting. Some districts in our state treat it that way and you will find language used all across the state where it appears to be a separate type of meeting. Boards and districts refer to ‘executive session meetings’ but when we get right down to how to post and hold meetings, all meetings are either regular, special or emergency, and the ‘executive session’ is a component (part or all) of one of those types of meetings PLUS meets the requirement to be exempt from public viewing.

I recommend districts treat executive sessions as an agenda item on a public session agenda, and post the meeting that way. This is true even when executive session is the only agenda item. It will help you avoid the problem of having the board discover something during executive session that needs to be done in public session and not be able to do it because no public session was posted. If you have posted a public session to call the meeting to order and say the pledge of allegiance, then go into exec session, then come out to adjourn, you always have the opportunity to come out of the exec session and take immediate action if you need to. Oregon laws allow you to add agenda items at the last minute. You must have the public meeting portion posted in order to add the item.

Work sessions are not recognized by Oregon’s laws as a separate type of meeting. The term is used by boards for public meetings (regular, special or emergency) where the board intends to take no action. You may have a policy on work sessions. The posting, minutes, public access, etc. requirements for a work session must be met the same as for any of the other type of meeting. Despite the fact, the board may traditionally, or by policy, state they won’t take action at a ‘work session’, in the eyes of the law they may.

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