Governing Bodies: General FAQ 8

When can a municipal governmental body vote in closed session?

For the most part, voting by a municipal governmental body should be done in open session whenever possible. However, governmental bodies can take final action and vote in closed session as long as the voting is an integral part of the deliberation process. 67 Op. Att'y Gen. 117 (1978); Governing Bodies 305.

Wis. Stat. sec. 19.83 provides: "At any meeting of a governmental body, all discussion shall be held and all action of any kind, formal or informal, shall be initiated, deliberated upon and acted upon only in open session, except as provided in s. 19.85." Although only Wis. Stat. sec. 19.85(1)(b) specifically refers to "the taking of formal action" on a matter, there are other instances where voting in closed session is clearly appropriate. For example, a governmental body meeting under the exemption authorizing a closed session to deliberate the purchase of public properties whenever competitive or bargaining reasons require would require a vote in closed session if making a decision regarding the initial offering price and what the body is ultimately willing to pay to purchase a particular property.

Municipal officials should note that Wis. Stat. sec. 70.47(2m), precludes the board of review from introducing, deliberating upon or adopting any formal action of any kind at a closed session. Similarly, Wis. Stat. sec. 62.23(7)(e)3 states that all meetings of a zoning board of appeals shall be open to the public.

(rev. 2/19)