[HAMMOND] SGA officers improperly called an executive session at their Feb. 13 meeting. The reason for calling the meeting does not coincide with Louisiana law that establishes guidelines for public meetings.
Senate Vice-Chair Mary Gervais said, “It was called to further discuss a questionable bill. I can’t comment on what happens in executive session but the issue was resolved and the bill was passed.”
Jonathan Lyons, the vice-president of Sigma Alpha Xi, approached the senate with a grant proposal for Sigma Alpha Xi.
“It’s always been our goal to bring in nationally recognized artists,” Dr. Richard Schwartz, Sigma Alpha Xi advisor, explained.
The organization requested a departmental grant to host the performance and receive instruction from classical saxophonist Dr. Otis Murphy. “We provide an opportunity to be exposed to nationally recognized artist,” said Schwartz.
Before the senate members voted on the grant, questions circulated concerning a proposal brought to the SGA last semester. Brandon Summers said, “Last semester, that organization applied for an organizational grant.”
SGA officers went into an executive meeting after a majority vote of the Senate.
According to the Citizens’ Rights Card , there are five reasons a public body can hold a closed meeting:
“(1) Discuss the character, professional competence or health of a person (except in emergency, the person must be given 24 hours’ written notice), but in meetings other than those of the Legislature or its committees the person may require a public discussion; the exemption may not be used to discuss a person’s appointment to a public body; (2) Discuss strategy or negotiations regarding collective bargaining or prospective litigation after formal written demand, or litigation ‘when an open meeting would have a detrimental effect on the bargaining or litigation position of the public body’ (an agenda must identify litigation to be discussed); (3) Discuss security personnel, plans or devices; (4) Investigate alleged misconduct; or (5) Deal with “natural disaster, threat of epidemic, civil disturbances, suppression of insurrections, the repelling of invasions, or other matters of similar magnitude.’ ”
The Louisiana Attorney General website also list in the open meeting laws ten reasons executive session may be held:
Before an executive or closed session may be held, there must be a formal motion made which is approved by 2/3 of the members present. Executive sessions are permitted for discussion only. The public body cannot take any poll, straw vote or final or binding action in Executive Session. The topics which may be discussed in Executive Session are:
1. Discussion of the character, competence, physical health, or mental health of a person.
2.Strategy on collective bargaining, prospective litigation and pending litigation.
3. Security personnel, plans, or devices.
4. Investigation of misconduct.
5. Natural disasters, epidemic or civil disturbances.
6. State Mineral Board meetings where records or matters entitled to confidential status are to be considered or discussed.
7. Discussion between the school board and a student or the student’s parent; however, the student or parent may demand an open meeting.
8. Civil service board meetings where there is discussion of test questions, answers, and papers produced and exhibited by the office of the state examiner, municipal fire and police civil service.
9. Second Injury Board meetings where records or matters regarding the settlement of a workers’ compensation claim are required to be considered/discussed.
10. Any other matters now provided for or that may be provided for by the legislature.”
SGA list two reasons in its bylaws explaining to call an executive session
“D. Every senate and senate committee shall be open to the public, with the exception of
1. No quorum is present.
2. Executive sessions are called.
a. A simple majority vote is required to go into executive session.
b. The Student Senate or a Senate Committee may hold an executive session for
one (1) or more of the following reasons:
i. Discussion of the character, professional competence, or physical or
mental health of a person.
ii. Investigative proceedings regarding allegations of misconduct.
c. During an executive session no final or binding action may be taken.”
“Discussing a questionable bill” is not one of the reasons.
Gervais said, “We are governed by Southeastern’s laws. To my knowledge, executive session can be called at any time.”