The other day, a board of aldermen held a regular open meeting and had a discussion about the need to hire someone for their water department. All was well and good in this community -- the board had given proper notice and the vote was handled per law. Before the meeting was over, however, the board ran out of time and rather than attempt to decide who should be hired, the board simply authorized the mayor of this fair town to make that decision and to hire someone who was available from the applicant pool.
Days go by and another meeting is held. At that meeting, suddenly a board member asks where the minutes are of their "phone meeting." What phone meeting, an attendee wonders? The phone meeting where the board was called in individual calls and asked to approve the choice of an individual for this water department position.
Oops... looks like the cat is out of the bag! Questioned about the propriety of such a process, the mayor first expounded that this was an emergency. Then he suggested that he had authority to make this decision and therefore the council didn't really take a vote to hire this person.
Both answers are wrong! The sunshine law is absolutely clear that "All votes taken by roll call in meetings of a public governmental body CONSISTING OF MEMBERS WHO ARE ELECTED ... SHALL be cast by members of the public governmental body who are physically present and in attendance at the meeting." If an emergency exists, it is possible for some members to vote "electronically" by phone, but there is a requirement that a "quorum of the members of the public body [be] physically present and in attendance" at the meeting for the emergency vote to take place by phone by the minority.
And the mayor cannot claim absolution for having been given the authority to hire the individual. Had he simply made the decision on his own, it would have been fine. But once he decided to poll the council, I believe he has opted instead of making this decision himself to let the council make the decision instead. And once he does that, then there needs to be the formality of a meeting for the council to act.
Even some of the council apparently realized this shift in authority, asking for the minutes of the meeting that allegedly didn't occur. Give that council person credit for realizing that a mistake had been made. Now it's up to the council to re-vote this hiring and do it right. No need to take this one behind closed doors -- simply do it in open meeting and be up front to the public about your mistake!
And maybe you'll want to ask the Attorney General's office to send you some of these bright new, sunshine yellow Sunshine Law books, so you can re-read those laws you are obligated to follow!