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Executive function, session explained

March 12, 2006

In Maryland's Open Meetings Act, "executive function" is defined as "the administration of: a law of the State; a law of a political subdivison of the State; or a rule, regulation, or bylaw of a public body."

"Executive function," the act continues, "does not include: an advisory function, a judicial function; (or) a legislative function."

A public body may invoke "executive function" and meet secretly, without notifying the public, if it's administering an existing law.

Asked for an example, Maryland Assistant Attorney General William Varga said a board that oversees a town manager might meet in an administrative role to discuss the manager's work.

Executive function often is confused with "executive session," a different clause that allows government bodies to meet in private, but only after telling the public.

There are eight categories under which a government body may call an executive session for a private discussion: personnel matters, privacy matters, commercial/business matters, litigation matters, collective bargaining negotiations, public security matters, examinations and criminal investigations.

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A bill approved this month by Maryland's House of Delegates (HB 698) would change "executive function" to "administrative function" and would require government bodies to create brief minutes of those meetings afterward, so the public would know they took place.

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