Recording objections

Councilmember Jon Nelson requests objection to previous meeting’s executive session be recorded in minutes


February 26, 2020

In the state of Wyoming, executive sessions are not uncommon when it comes to public meetings of governing bodies. Indeed, the Wyoming State Statute allows city, county, state and local powers to enter an executive session to discuss a variety of issues ranging from discussion of personnel to matters of litigation or national security.

Both the current and previous incarnations of the Saratoga Town Council have used their right to executive session, often remarking that no decisions were made and sealing the minutes of the session. At the February 4 meeting, the council entered an executive session for just over 16 minutes before resuming the public meeting to call for adjournment.

At the February 18 meeting, Councilmember Jon Nelson made public his objection to the executive session held earlier this month under council comments.

“After (the) last meeting, I reviewed some statute and feel that I need to go on record and make a statement regarding the executive session at the last meeting. Per State Statute 16-4-408, I would like to have my objection to the meeting noted in the minutes of tonight’s meeting please,” said Nelson.

Title 16, Article 4 of the Wyoming State Statute contains the state’s open meeting laws, dictating what a governing body can and cannot do outside the view of the public. The statute cited by Nelson in the opening minutes of the most recent council meeting, 16-4-408, pertain to penalties for violating Wyoming State Statute on public meetings.

Section 16-4-408(a) of the Wyoming State Statute reads “any member or members of an agency who knowingly or intentionally violate the provisions of this act shall be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $750.” The statute goes on to read that any member of the governing body who attends or remains in a meeting knowing it is in violation of the open meeting laws “shall be liable … unless minutes were taken during the meeting and … the member’s objections are made public or at the next regular public meeting the member objects to the meeting where the violation occurred and asks that the objection be recorded in the minutes.”

The February 4 agenda for the Saratoga Town Council meeting cites State Statute 16-4-405(ii) and (iii) as the reason for entering executive session. These subsections provide governing bodies that ability to enter into an executive session to discuss personnel, in the case of the former subsection, or litigation, in the case of the latter subsection.

Nelson did not clarify his objections under council comments nor, under state statute, was he required to do so. The council member’s objections did not appear to come as a shock to the rest of the council or Mayor John Zeiger, who asked Saratoga Town Clerk Suzie Cox to make sure that Nelson’s objections were recorded.

The next meeting of the Saratoga Town Council will be at 6 p.m. on March 3 at Saratoga Town Hall.


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