The Michigan Court of Appeals recently issued two unpublished opinions which may affect a public body’s obligations related to meeting in closed sessions under Michigan’s Open Meetings Act, MCL 15.261 et seq. (“OMA”). The cases, Andrich v. Delta College Board of Trustees and Estate of Timothy Ader v Delta College Board of Trustees decided on June 5, 2018, found that when a Michigan public body elects to go into a closed session to “consult with its attorney regarding trial or settlement strategy in connection with specific pending litigation” under MCL 15.268(e), the OMA requires the public body to identify beforehand on the record the specific litigation that it will be discussing. Similarly, the decision further suggests that public bodies must be as transparent as possible when recording the minutes related to the content of the closed session meetings. For instance, in Andrich, the closed session at issue resulted in the Board of Trustees’ acceptance of its legal counsel’s recommendation that the Board agree to a settlement within designated dollar parameters, which was subsequently formalized by resolution of the Board once back in open session. However, the minutes of the open meeting reflected only that the Board accepted counsel’s unknown recommendation. The Court found that, “to more fully comply” with the OMA, the Board should have informed the public in open session that it had authorized its counsel to settle the case “within certain parameters” without disclosing what those parameters were.
While these cases are “unpublished,” meaning they are not binding authority, they nevertheless provide persuasive authority for Michigan courts.