Open Meetings Law FAQ 8

Is the regular use of public meeting notices that contain a non-specific agenda item like "such other matters as are authorized by law" or "miscellaneous business" or "such other matters as may come before the board" consistent with the notice requirements of the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law?

No. The Wisconsin Open Meetings Law requires that every public notice of a meeting must give the "time, date, place and subject matter of the meeting, including that intended for consideration at any contemplated closed session, in such form as is reasonably likely to apprise members of the public and the news media thereof." Wis. Stat. sec. 19.84(2). The requirement does not compel a detailed agenda. However, the public is entitled to the fullest and most complete information compatible with the conduct of governmental business. Therefore, the notice should be specific.

Specific notice requires that when a member of the governmental body knows in advance of the time notice is given that a matter may come before the body, that matter must be described in the meeting notice. 66 Op. Att'y Gen. 143, 144 (1977). The chief presiding officer of the governmental body is responsible for providing notice, and when he or she is aware of matters which may come before the body, those matters must be included in the meeting notice. 66 Op. Att'y Gen. 68, 70 (1977).

Past attorney general opinions said that governmental bodies could discuss matters not specifically set forth in the meeting notice and not known to the chief presiding officer if the notice contained broad umbrella clauses such as "such other matters as are authorized by law" or "miscellaneous business," but cautioned that such a procedure should be used with restraint. 66 Op. Att'y Gen 143 (1977). In a March 5, 2004 informal opinion letter which addressed a different but related issue regarding non-specific agenda items, the Wisconsin Attorney General stated that "[g]eneral subject matter designations such as 'miscellaneous business,' or 'agenda revisions,' or 'such other matters as are authorized by law' should be avoided." Given these admonitions against the use of non-specific agenda items and the basic notice requirements under the open meetings law, the regular use of them on agendas is not consistent with the open meetings law.