SIDNEY -- What is a tax-supported agency legally obligated to do, and not do, under the Nebraska Open Meetings Act?

That is a question debated from coffee shops to court rooms.

The provisions of the Open Meetings Act can be found at

The dialogue starts with "The Nebraska Open Meetings Act guarantees that every meeting of a public body shall be open to the public in order that citizens may exercise their democratic privilege of attending and speaking at meetings of public bodies. The information below details Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 84-1407 through 84-1414 (2014, Cum. Supp. 2022)."

The Nebraska Open Meetings Act defines what must be done in open session, what defines an open session, exceptions, and what can be legally discussed in an executive session.

The Nebraska open meetings laws are a statutory commitment to openness in government.Their purpose is to ensure that public policy is formulated at open meetings of the bodies to which the law is applicable., according to the  "Purpose" paragraph In the Basic Provisions of the document. 

The Open Meetings Act says public notification of a meeting is required, and explains how notice is to be done. It also exempts casual meetings of elected officials from the definition or a meeting or a quorum, unless they are discussing business. For example, if two elected officials from the same board are at the same restaurant it is not a public gathering unless they are at the same table discussing agency business. 

Executive, or Closed Sessions, are tightly limited in purpose. 

 "Section 84-1410, pertaining to closed sessions of public body, has generated the most controversy of all the portions of the open meetings statutes.  Section 84-1410(1) provides that any public body may hold a closed session by the affirmative vote of a majority of its voting members if a closed session is clearly necessary (1) for the protection of the public interest, or (2) for the prevention of needless injury to an individual, if such individual has not requested a public meeting.  Closed meetings may not be held for discussion of the appointment or election of a new member to any public body.  Nothing in § 84-1410 should be construed to require that any meeting be closed to the public.

1. Under § 84-1410(1), examples of reasons for a closed session include:

a. Strategy sessions with respect to collective bargaining, real estate purchases, pending litigation, or litigation which is imminent as evidenced by communication of a claim or threat of litigation to or by the public body.

b. Discussion regarding deployment of security personnel or devices.

c. Investigative proceedings regarding allegations of criminal misconduct.

d. Evaluation of the job performance of a person when necessary to prevent needless injury to the reputation of a person and if such person has not requested a public meeting.

e. For a Community Trust created under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 81-1801.02, discussion regarding the amounts to be paid to individuals who have suffered from a tragedy of violence or natural disaster. [Amended into § 84-1410(1) by 2011 Neb. Laws LB 390.]

f. For public hospitals, governing board peer review activities, professional review activities, review and discussion of medical staff investigations or disciplinary actions, and any strategy session concerning transactional negotiations with any referral source that is required by federal law to be conducted at arm’s length. [Amended into § 84-1410(1) by 2012 Neb. Laws LB 995.]"

The Nebraska Open Meetings Act is displayed in the Cheyenne County commissioners meeting room, the Sidney City Council chambers, Cheyenne County Fair Board meeting room, Sidney Board of Education.

Section B of § 84-1409(1) says public bodies covered by the Open Meetings Act include:  "(1) governing bodies of all political subdivisions of the State; (2) governing bodies of all agencies of the executive department of state government created by law; (3) all independent boards, commissions, bureaus, committees, councils, subunits, or any other bodies created pursuant to law; (4) all study or advisory committees of the executive department of the state whether of continuing or limited existence; (5) advisory committees of the governing bodies of political subdivisions, of the governing bodies of agencies of the executive branch of state government, or of independent boards, commissions, etc.; and (6) "instrumentalities exercising essentially public functions."