I had an interesting discussion with someone today regarding an issue that comes up frequently -- the use of notices of a potential closed meeting citing the "usual suspects" for closure -- real estate, litigation and personnel. A lot of public bodies just throw that on every agenda "just in case" they need to hold a closed meeting. What prompted this discussion was the fact that a paper had taken one of its public bodies to task for the issue.
I have always contended that it is not permissible to do one of these "catch-all" notices for a potential closed meeting. The statute is clear (610.022.2) that in giving notice of a closed meeting you must include "the specific reason for holding it by reference to the specific exception allowed...." How can you cite the specific reason if you don't even know whether a meeting is going to be required?
And, I know that the AG's office has sent out at least one letter earlier that concurs with this belief.
The person who was discussing this with me suggested that the law might be changed to allow a body to list in its agenda a generic notice that a closed meeting might be held. I understand the concept, but I don't believe the law needs to have such a provision. If you honestly have an emergency, the law allows you to schedule an emergency closed meeting (610.020.4) by citing in the minutes the good cause justifying the departure from the normal requirements of 24-hour advance notice. Then you can go ahead and have the closed meeting. If there isn't really an emergency, there's no reason the public body cannot simply go ahead and give the proper 24-hour notice and hold a separate meeting.
What constitutes an emergency? Well, there's not any case law on this subject right now specifically related to this statute. I assume you'd just have to feel comfortable that you could defend your "emergency" before a judge if you were sued.
And, as I concluded in my discussion today, there's the old saying that "lack of planning on your part doesn't make it an emergency on my part...." That's a reminder that might be very important to keep in mind in dealing with this scenario!