The city council in a Missouri community is holding a council meeting this week and discussing an issue regarding rezoning matters. They are making a decision which clearly is making several local residents unhappy. One resident stands up and says to them "Have you talked about the implications of this decision?" And a councilperson responds, "Yes we have." "When?" asks the citizen. "We have closed meetings where we discuss this issue," the councilperson responds.
Oh, my. I hope not. Rezoning land is certainly not a subject for a closed meeting discussion. And where there has not even been a hint of potential litigation, there would seem to be not even a creative way one could argue that any of the exceptions in Section 610.02 would apply. Indeed, courts have said a public body has "a
heavy burden of demonstrating both a substantial likelihood that
litigation may occur and a clear nexus between the [information} sought and
the anticipated litigation."
Based on the facts behind this situation, it would seem highly unlikely that the public body had evidence prior to the most recent meeting (and, truthfully even not then) that there was a "substantial likelihood that litigation may occur...." Just because someone may be mad doesn't mean there's a substantial likelihood of anything, except that a public body has made someone mad, or may be making someone madder.
Indeed, this is just one more example why this exception needs to be clarified. The abuse heaped on it is monumental. But legislators don't seem very interested in making this change to the sunshine law. Hmmm...... wonder why? Wouldn't it seem logical that legislators would be eager to fix this loophole? Why do you suppose there is such a lack of concern about this? Give you three guesses....