After meeting in closed session for 2 1/2 hours Aug. 14 and adjourning the meeting to 8 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21, the Nisswa mayor and its city attorney declined Friday, Aug. 16, to name the subject of these meetings.
Nisswa police chief Craig Taylor on Tuesday, Aug. 20, said he was the employee being discussed.
According to Mark Anfinson, attorney for the Minnesota Newspaper Association, when a public body closes a meeting for preliminary consideration of allegations or charges against an employee, the name of the employee must be disclosed. This rule is based on provisions found in both the Open Meeting Law (OML) and the Data Practices Act (DPA).
The Aug. 14 special meeting notice read, in part: “This meeting will be closed ... for preliminary consideration of allegations or charges against an individual or individuals subject to the public body’s authority and/or for preliminary consideration of whether to terminate a city employee or employees.”
Taylor questioned how the council could hold a closed meeting regarding complaints or allegations against an employee, when there had been no complaints or allegations against him.
Nisswa city attorney Clyde Ahlquist said last week that nothing was decided Aug. 14 and there was no action taken on the discussion or possible termination. He declined to identify the subject of the discussions, saying talks were preliminary.
Anfinson said the OML states specifically in section 13D.01, subd. 3, that “Before closing a meeting, a public body shall state on the record the specific grounds permitting the meeting to be closed and describe the subject to be discussed.” There are legal interpretations of this provision holding that “the subject to be discussed” includes the name of an employee or other person if the person is the topic of the closed meeting, Anfinson said.
In addition, section 13.43, subd. 2(a)(4) of the DPA states that among the items of data about a government employee that are always public are “the existence and status of any complaints or charges against the employee, regardless of whether the complaint or charge resulted in a disciplinary action.”
While Ahlquist said last week there was no complaint yet against the employee, in practical terms the council can’t close a meeting to discuss “allegations or charges against an individual” in the first place, unless there is some kind of complaint or charge, Anfinson said.
Ahlquist said the meetings were scheduled at his office in Pequot Lakes for convenience.