Executive sessions: Closed-door meetings keep some dealings private

Apache Junction City Council members met six to 12 times in the last year in closed-door executive sessions, mostly for personnel matters, according to city records.

State law allows the meetings per Arizona Revised Statutes 38-431.03, which states, in part, that upon a public majority vote of the members constituting a quorum, a public body may hold an executive session. It goes on to list seven subsections detailing the types of meetings that may be held, according to https://www.azleg.gov.

The one most cited on council agendas is discussion or consultation for legal advice with the attorney or attorneys of the public body.

The last year’s executive session agendas are kept in a binder. They can be viewed for free or copied for 25 cents a page at the City Clerk’s Office, 300 E. Superstition Blvd.

Minutes are confidential and not allowed to be viewed by the public, but the topics are shown on agendas.

Each of the six executive-session agendas from the past year, May 1, 2017-May 1, 2018, allowed for an hour of meetings over two days, starting a 6 p.m., with a 7 p.m. meeting in general following.

Topics were:

  • discussion on personnel matters regarding performance evaluations and employment agreements for city manager, city attorney and presiding magistrate, May 1-2, May 15-16 and June 5-6, 2017.
  • discussion with the city attorney for legal advice regarding potential downtown development, July 17-18, 2017.
  • discussion with the city attorney for legal advice regarding downtown development, Oct. 2-3, 2017.
  • discussion with the city attorney on legal restrictions for placement of items on a city council agenda; and discussion on personnel matters regarding the performance evaluation of the city manager, March 19-20, 2018.

City of Apache Junction

From left are Apache Junction City Manager Bryant Powell and City Attorney R. Joel Stern at a council meeting. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Council members and two city of Apache Junction employees can add items to an executive session agenda, City Attorney R. Joel Stern said in an e-mailed response to questions.

“General oral policy is that any council member can ask for an e-session, or the city manager or me, as long as the requirements/categories are met under the above-referenced statute,” he said of Arizona Revised Statutes § 38-431.03. “Also, Apache Junction City Code § 2-4-3 summarizes the categories appropriate for e-session.”

E-session agendas and notices are found under the agenda and minutes category of the city website www.ajcity.net. They are not placed on Legistar since they are not regular or special meetings, he said of https://apachejunction.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx.

Fire district

The Superstition Fire and Medical District Governing Board can meet in executive sessions, Richard Ochs, assistant chief for emergency services and operations, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

By state statute, SFMD board members or the fire chief can call for an executive session agenda item for legal matters or personnel matters, he said.

“Meetings are taped and minutes are documented; however, they are confidential and not made available to the public,” he said.

“The board may vote to go into executive session pursuant to ARS §38-431.03(A)(1) for personnel matters; ARS §38-431.03(A)(3) for legal advice; and ARS §38-431.03(A)(4) to give instructions to legal counsel. Note: Executive sessions are confidential pursuant to ARS §38-431.03(C),” he said in the e-mail.

The district’s administrative offices are at 565 N. Idaho Road. For more information on the fire district, go to http://sfmd.az.gov.

Sewer district

The Superstition Mountains Community Facilities District No. 1 Governing Board holds executive sessions, Executive Assistant Kathy Huckfeldt said in an e-mailed response to questions.

“As a special district formed pursuant to Title 48, Chapter 4, Article 6 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, the district may hold an executive session pursuant to A.R.S. § 38-431.03,” she said.

“Executive session minutes are recorded and stored confidentially pursuant to A.R.S. § 38-431.03 (B),” she said.
For more information on the SMCFD, 5661 S Ironwood Drive, go to www.smcfd.org.

Editor Richard Dyer can be contacted at rdyer@newszap.com.

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Executive sessions allowed under Arizona state law

State law allows executive session meetings per Arizona Revised Statutes 38-431.03. According to https://www.azleg.gov, it states:

A. Upon a public majority vote of the members constituting a quorum, a public body may hold an executive session but only for the following purposes:
1. Discussion or consideration of employment, assignment, appointment, promotion, demotion, dismissal, salaries, disciplining or resignation of a public officer, appointee or employee of any public body, except that, with the exception of salary discussions, an officer, appointee or employee may demand that the discussion or consideration occur at a public meeting. The public body shall provide the officer, appointee or employee with written notice of the executive session as is appropriate but not less than twenty-four hours for the officer, appointee or employee to determine whether the discussion or consideration should occur at a public meeting.
2. Discussion or consideration of records exempt by law from public inspection, including the receipt and discussion of information or testimony that is specifically required to be maintained as confidential by state or federal law.
3. Discussion or consultation for legal advice with the attorney or attorneys of the public body.
4. Discussion or consultation with the attorneys of the public body in order to consider its position and instruct its attorneys regarding the public body’s position regarding contracts that are the subject of negotiations, in pending or contemplated litigation or in settlement discussions conducted in order to avoid or resolve litigation.
5. Discussions or consultations with designated representatives of the public body in order to consider its position and instruct its representatives regarding negotiations with employee organizations regarding the salaries, salary schedules or compensation paid in the form of fringe benefits of employees of the public body.
6. Discussion, consultation or consideration for international and interstate negotiations or for negotiations by a city or town, or its designated representatives, with members of a tribal council, or its designated representatives, of an Indian reservation located within or adjacent to the city or town.
7. Discussions or consultations with designated representatives of the public body in order to consider its position and instruct its representatives regarding negotiations for the purchase, sale or lease of real property.

Editor Richard Dyer can be reached at rdyer@newszap.com

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