What Are the Open Meeting Laws in Minnesota?
How a town, city or village council must post their public meetings
on April 27, 2020
Updated on February 8, 2021
Democracy requires government officials to act in an open and transparent manner. For this reason, Minnesota law generally requires all multi-member governmental bodies to open their business meetings to the public. Chapter 13D of the Minnesota Statutes codifies the state's current open meeting law, which covers all state agencies, boards, commissions, and departments, as well as a variety of local Governing bodies, such as town, city, and village councils. Meetings of the Minnesota legislature are covered by a separate law.
What Is Considered a “Meeting”?
The law broadly defines a “meeting” of a covered governmental body to be any gathering of at least a quorum of the body's membership. For example, let's say a city council has 13 members. A quorum is normally defined as a majority of the membership, or in this case 7 members. So as far as the state's open meeting law is concerned, any gathering of at least 7 councilors where official business is discussed is a “meeting” and must be open to the public. Conversely, if less than a quorum is present, there is no meeting, as by law no business can take place.
What Meetings May Remain Closed?
Chapter 13D does not apply to meetings of the Minnesota commissioner of corrections or to any state governmental body when it exercises a “quasi-judicial function,” such as disciplinary proceedings. A body otherwise covered by the law may also vote, publicly, to close a portion of its meeting when necessary to consider any of the following subjects:
- strategies for labor negotiations with government employees;
- privileged consultations with an attorney;
- offers or counter-offers for the purchase or sale of property, including discussions regarding the “asking price” of such property; and
- review of any “confidential or protected nonpublic appraisal data,” as defined by state law.
Notifying the Public of Meetings
A public body must keep a schedule of its regular meetings on file at its primary office. Should the body hold its regular meetings at a different time than scheduled, or it plans to hold a special meeting, it must give notice to the public. Such notice should be made on the “principal bulletin board” of that body, or if no such board exists, on the door of the room where it regularly meets. Members of the public may also request written notice of any special meeting, which must be sent at least three days ahead of time.
What About Video Meetings, Email, Social Media, et cetera?
The open meeting law does not just apply to in-person gatherings. If a covered body chooses to meet by telephone, interactive television, or any other electronic means, the proceedings must still be made accessible to the public. Again, the legal test is whether or not a quorum of the body is present and able to conduct business. Minnesota law does exempt “social media” from the open meeting law to the extent that individual members of a governing body are interacting “with all members of the general public.”
For more information on state, local and municipal law, read our overview article here.