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Saturday, Mar. 28, 2015

School board's meeting with attorney to be private

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Bedford County Board of Education plans to meet in a closed attorney-client session 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the school system central offices on Madison Street.

In general, meetings of governing bodies like the school board are subject to the Tennessee Open Meetings Act, nicknamed the "Sunshine Law," which requires that they be open to the public. However, court interpretations of that law have held that bodies can meet in private with their legal counsel in order to preserve the legal principle of attorney-client privilege.

Limitations

An attorney-client meeting is intended to be only for briefing and getting legal advice from the attorney. Members of the body are not supposed to discuss any issue among themselves behind closed doors. If there is action to be taken as a result of the attorney's advice, it has to be debated and voted on in a regular open meeting.

Of course, the very fact that a closed meeting is closed makes it hard to know for sure whether any governing body has followed those rules in the past.

Previous meets

Such attorney-client meetings take place from time to time among several local governing bodies. Bedford County Emergency Communications District board, which has been facing personnel issues, held one in August. Shelbyville City Council held one in April related to a lawsuit over damage to the city's flume system. Bedford County Board of Commissioners held one in January related to an overtime lawsuit by sheriff's department employees.

Not specified

The school board's notice of the attorney-client meeting to the Times-Gazette did not specify the issue to be discussed. There have been various disagreements and debates in recent months among members of the school board, between some board members and the school superintendent, and between the school system and the county commission.