Media Law Handbook

Open Meetings


5. What rules govern closed sessions, and what sessions may be closed?
3. What constitutes an “official meeting” of a public body?

4. What public notice of a meeting is required?

The Open Meetings Law requires public notice of all official meetings.[17] This holds true even if the entire purpose of the meeting is to hold a closed session because the public is entitled to know that the meeting is occurring. The type of notice required depends on the character of the meeting regular, special, emergency or recessed (or adjourned). If a public body maintains a website, notice of its meetings must be posted on the website.[18]   

Regular meetings. If a public body has an established schedule of regular meetings, that schedule must be posted to the body’s Web site if there is one, and filed in a central location.[19] Once filed, the schedule is the only public notice required of meetings held pursuant to the schedule. The central locations are as follows:

State boardsthe office of the Secretary of State.[20]

County boardsthe office of the clerk to the board of county commissioners.[21]

City boardsthe office of the city clerk.[22]

Other boards - the office of the board’s clerk or secretary.[23]   If the body does not have a clerk or secretary, with the clerk to the board of county commissioners in the county in which the public body normally holds its meetings.

Special meetings. A special meeting is any meeting (other than an emergency meeting or a recessed/adjourned meeting) that is held at a time or place other than that shown on the filed schedule of regular meetings.[24] (Some boards have no regular meeting schedule at all, and for those boards all meetings would be special.) The law requires that a public body give 48 hours’ notice of special meetings by each of two methods. First, a notice stating the time, place and purpose of the meeting must be posted on the “principal bulletin board” of the public body. If the body has no such board, the notice must be posted on the door of the body’s usual meeting room. If the building containing the principal bulletin board or usual meeting room is continuously closed to the public for 48 hours before the time of the meeting, the notice must be posted on the door of the building or on the building in an area accessible to the public.  Second, the same notice must be mailed, emailed or delivered to each media representative (newspaper, wire service, radio station, or television station) or person who has requested it, in writing, from the clerk or secretary to the board. To make certain you get notice of special meetings, you must file a written request with the board. The law permits a public body to require the media to renew such requests annually, but most boards have not imposed that requirement. Still, representatives of the media should take steps to comply with individual board requirements.

Emergency meetingsAn emergency meeting is one “called because of generally unexpected circumstances that require immediate consideration by the public body.”[25] Such meetings should be rare, but if one is necessary, the only notice required is notice to any members of the local news media who have requested it. The notice may be given by telephone or in any other manner by which the board members themselves are notified. At such a meeting, only the emergency itself may be discussed or acted upon.

Recessed meetingsIf a public body is convened in a meeting for which proper notice was given, it may recess that meeting to a certain time and need give no further public notice of the adjourned or recessed session.[26] The theory of this provision of the law is that anyone interested in the business of the public body will be present when the time of the later session is agreed upon.  Any such action must come in open session, even if the later, recessed session will be a closed session.

The notice requirement was one of the central issues in the 2011 Garlock v. Wake County Bd. of Educ. court of appeals decision.[27]  In that case, the Wake County Board of Education adopted a ticketing requirement to gain entry to a scheduled board meeting on the morning of the meeting.  The court held that the “last-minute” ticketing procedure failed to comply with the 48 hour notice requirement because the public was not informed that a ticket was required to gain entry to the scheduled meeting.  



[17] N.C. Gen. Stat. §143-318.12(a).

[18] N.C. Gen. Stat. §143-318.12(d) and (e).

[19] N.C. Gen. Stat. §143-318.12(d).

[20] N.C. Gen. Stat. §143-318.12(a)(1).

[21] N.C. Gen. Stat. §143-318.12(a)(2).

[22] N.C. Gen. Stat. §143-318.12(a)(3).

[23] N.C. Gen. Stat. §143-318.12(a)(4).

[24] N.C. Gen. Stat. §143-318.12(b)(2).

[25] N.C. Gen. Stat. §143-318.12(f).

[26] N.C. Gen. Stat. §143-318.12(b)(1).

[27] 712 S.E.2d 158, 175-76 (2011).

5. What rules govern closed sessions, and what sessions may be closed?
3. What constitutes an “official meeting” of a public body?

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