Appendix M – Summaries of Oregon Attorney General Opinions

Within this Section


    37 Op Atty Gen 183(1974), 1974 WL 187704.

    The Public Meetings Law prohibited the use of secret ballots by a governing body.

    38 Op Atty Gen 50(1976), 1976 WL 451475.

    A governing body could not ban the tape recording of its official public proceedings by individual citizens, and could restrict such taping only to the extent necessary to protect the orderly conduct of the proceedings.

    38 Op Atty Gen 1471 (1977), 1977 WL 31327.

    When a governing body gathers to obtain information on a subject within its jurisdiction, it is deliberating towards a decision and must comply with the meeting requirements.

    38 Op Atty Gen 1584 (1977), 1977 WL 31340.

    The management board and the advisory committee of the Tri Agency Dog Control Authority (two cities and a county) were both governing bodies subject to the Public Meetings Law.

    38 Op Atty Gen 2122 (1978), 1978 WL 29514.

    It was constitutional for the Public Meetings Law to provide that information obtained by newspersons during an executive session should not be disclosed. Meetings law did not restrict the rights of the news media, but instead granted a limited right of access, which otherwise would not exist. “[I]n each case where an executive session is authorized by the Public Meetings Law, the operation and interests of an Oregon governing body could be jeopardized if the meeting were made public.” Meetings law does not provide for any sanction of the media for violating a directive not to disclose specified information. “The legislature apparently chose to rely upon the good faith of reporters in complying with the requirement.”

    39 Op Atty Gen 480 (1979), 1979 WL 35604.

    The board of education of a community college district could meet in executive session to consider a written personnel evaluation of a college president because the evaluation was exempt under Public Records Law.

    39 Op Atty Gen 525 (1979), 1979 WL 35618.

    A city council could not vote in private, despite city charter provisions to the contrary.

    39 Op Atty Gen 703 (1979), 1979 WL 35661.

    It was not an unconstitutional violation of equal protection for the Public Meetings Law to allow access by news media representatives to executive sessions, while denying access to the public.

    40 Op Atty Gen 388 (1980), 1980 WL 112751.

    Deliberations of a county court (board of commissioners) after a public hearing to consider an appeal on the granting of a subdivision permit had to be held in public. The exemption for equivalent deliberations of a state agency governing body after a contested case hearing did not apply to local government bodies, and the exemption for judicial proceedings did not apply to quasi-judicial proceedings.

    40 Op Atty Gen 458 (1980), 1980 WL 112763.

    A workshop session of the board of a special district was subject to the Public Meetings Law. Any meeting of a quorum of the board to hear arguments of nonboard members, in any setting, had to be held in public, unless executive session was authorized.

    41 Op Atty Gen 28 (1980), 1980 WL 113323.

    Home-rule cities and counties were subject to the Public Meetings Law. Regular or special meetings between members of administrative staff and a county governing body were subject to meetings law. Noting regular and special meeting dates on a master calendar in the board’s office was not sufficient notice of meetings. Any meeting of two or more members of a three-member governing body was a “public meeting” if the purpose was to decide or deliberate toward a decision on matters within the jurisdiction of the board, regardless of who else was present.

    41 Op Atty Gen 218 (1980), 1980 WL 113360.

    The proceedings of the Land Use Board of Appeals qualified as contested case hearings under Public Meetings Law, and therefore the board’s deliberations after formal hearings were exempt from the law.


    42 Op Atty Gen 187 (1981), 1981 WL 152293.

    A three-member body with investigatory and reporting functions, of which one member was appointed by the Governor of Oregon and two by the Governor of Washington, was not subject to the Public Meetings Law because (1) it was not delegated authority to decide policy, to administer, or to make recommendations; (2) the Governor (to whom it reported) as an individual officer was not a “public body” under meetings law; and (3) the body was not an Oregon body.

    42 Op Atty Gen 362 (1982), 1982 WL 183044.

    A public body could not discuss its chief executive officer’s salary in executive session as part of the process of setting it. It could not discuss salary negotiations for nonunion employees in executive session.

    42 Op Atty Gen 392 (1982), 1982 WL 183052.

    There was no means to ensure that news media attending executive sessions would keep the discussions confidential.

    The Oregon Investment Council could employ executive session to consider records exempt under the Public Records Law; if it knew or had good reason to believe that other governmental bodies were in competition for the kind of investment opportunity it was considering; and to deliberate with any person designated by it to negotiate a real property transaction.

    Letter of Advice to Sen. Margie Hendricksen (OP-5468) (July 13, 1983).

    A governing body could enforce meetings rules that related to order and decorum, limit the time allowed for persons to make presentations, require that no one could have the floor without securing permission from a presiding officer, and prohibit disturbing or disrupting a meeting.

    44 Op Atty Gen 69 (1984), 1984 WL 192199.

    Student government committees that prepared and made recommendations to the student government on incidental fee assessments and allocations were subject to meetings law.

    Letter of Advice to Ron Eachus (OP-6292) (Sept 12, 1988), 1988 WL 416300.

    The Public Utility Commission had to comply with the Public Meetings Law when a quorum of the commission met with staff to receive informational briefings on general topics of public utility regulation and agency administration. Even if information conveyed at a briefing did not relate to a matter requiring immediate action, the information could have some bearing on future decisions, the responsibility for which was placed upon a quorum of the commission.

    Letter of Advice to W.T. Lemman (OP-6248) (Oct 13, 1988), 1988 WL 416293.

    The meetings of a college-president search committee were subject to the meetings law: even though the committee made its recommendations to the chancellor, a single official, the chancellor had a limited role in screening the recommendations before submitting them to the Board of Higher Education, a public body.

    46 Op Atty Gen 155 (1989), 1989 WL 439806.

    The board of directors of the Oregon Medical Insurance Pool was not a governing body of a public body, and therefore was not subject to the Public Meetings Law.

    Letter of Advice to Rep. Carl Hosticka (OP-6376) (May 18, 1990), 1990 WL 519211.

    A governing body could meet in executive session to “conduct deliberations with persons designated by the governing body to negotiate real property transactions.” The apparent policy underlying this provision was to permit public bodies to protect their negotiating position in real property transactions by keeping certain information confidential. This provision did not permit a governing body to discuss long-term space needs or general lease site selection policies in executive session.


    Letter of Advice to L. Patrick Hearn » (OP-1997-4) (Aug 13, 1997), 1997 WL 469004.

    Meetings of the State Professional Responsibility Board, which is part of the attorney disciplinary process of the Oregon State Bar,  were exempt from Public Meetings Law as judicial proceedings. The meetings were adjudicatory in nature and were part of a process that ultimately could result in a judicial decision.

    49 Op Atty Gen 32 » (1998), 1998 WL 223374.

    Health professional regulatory boards had to hold contested case hearings on a notice of intent to impose discipline of a licensee in executive session because of a general prohibition on disclosing this information. Representatives of the news media could attend these hearings. These boards’ deliberations following the hearing were exempt from meetings law; therefore the boards were not required to provide notice, take minutes, or permit attendance by the news media. The boards could not take a final action or make final decisions on such disciplinary cases in executive session, but had to ensure that any discussion in public session did not disclose any confidential information.

    Letter of Advice to David F. White » (OP-2014-2) (Dec 10, 2014), 2014 WL 7150430.

    Meetings of the Board of Bar Examiners that discussed the character and fitness review of bar applicants were not exempt from Public Meetings Law as contested case proceedings because they were not conducted in accordance with the provisions of ORS chapter 183. However, meetings that involved hearing or reviewing evidence, arguments, or deliberations as part of the review process were exempt as judicial proceedings. Meetings concerning the bar examination were subject to meetings law, but discussions of test materials that were exempt from public disclosure under ORS 192.345(4) could take place in executive session.

    Op Atty Gen No 8291 » (Apr 18, 2016), 2016 WL 2905510.

    Representatives of the news media permitted to attend executive session were defined as “individuals who gather news and who have a formal affiliation * * * with an institutional news media entity.” Both general interest media and media that covered specific subject areas for special audiences could qualify. Online news media, such as blogs, could also qualify depending on the circumstances.

    There was no limit on how many representatives could attend executive session, even if a representative had a direct personal interest in the matter being discussed, had previously disclosed confidential information obtained at executive session, or did not ordinarily report on the governing body holding the session.