An executive session is not an exception to the Open Meetings Act but rather a portion of a public meeting conducted in private with only members of the governing body and those invited in by the governing body. Alaska Statute 44.62.310(b) authorizes a public body to meet in an executive session under strictly limited circumstances. The allowable subjects include “(1) matters, the immediate knowledge of which would clearly have an adverse effect upon the finances of the public entity.” 

Discussions related to pending litigation fall firmly within that category because if those discussions were held in public, it could compromise the legal and financial positions of the governing body. The assembly invited the appellants into the room; only six were present. Because we are filing pro se (on our own behalf), we stand in place of an attorney for those discussions.

If the conversation preceding the executive session was clumsy and uncertain, it was not because any party was trying to subvert the law, only because we are all regular people practicing democratic governance and having to face novel situations, such as we engaged in last Tuesday. While it may be unusual for an elected body to meet privately with a citizens’ group to discuss a pending lawsuit, it is certainly not unlawful. And it benefits all of us taxpayers when our government can settle legal issues out of court.

Jessica Plachta

Chilkat Valley Rural Citizens