Open Meetings Laws and Public Library Boards

The Georgia Open Meetings Law (Official Code of Georgia 50-14-1 and following) requires that all meetings of public library boards or any committee of their members be open to the public. There are very limited reasons for closure of a meeting (often called “going into executive session”). These are specified in law (OCGA 50-14-3).

When a board wishes to close a meeting for a legal reason, the board must take a vote to close and record each member’s vote in the minutes. The reason for closing must also be entered into the official minutes, and the board Chairperson or other person presiding over the meeting must sign an affidavit stating under oath that the subject matter of the closed portion was devoted to matters within the exceptions provided by law. Further, the presiding person must identify the specific relevant exception. This form must be notarized and retained with the official board records. Knowingly violating the Open Meetings Law is a misdemeanor and can result in a $500 fine.

Note that portions of a meeting may be closed for discussion, but a vote on any matter discussed in a closed session must be taken in public and recorded in the minutes. The director or the director’s designee must be present at all meetings of the board, including committee meetings and closed portions (OCGA 20-5-45).

Trustees are encouraged to read the Library Law (OCGA 20-5-40 through 20-5-59) and the Open Meetings Law (OCGA 50-14-1 through 50-14-6) carefully. Both of these are reprinted in the trustee manual published by GPLS. It is recommended that an independent attorney be consulted when there is a question regarding the law that is specific to your local situation.