The SC Freedom of Information Act generally requires city or town council meetings to be open to the public. Even so, exceptions exist when confidentiality can be beneficial to the overall public good.
At those times, public bodies can enter into executive session, but only under the exceptions spelled out by law. A council must vote, in open session, to enter into executive session, and state the reason for doing so as specifically as possible without compromising the issue.
- Discussion of employment, appointment, compensation, promotion, demotion, discipline or release of an employee, or an appointment to a public body. There is no requirement to name the person or entity being discussed.
- Discussion of negotiations relating to proposed contractual arrangements, discussions of a proposed sale or purchase of property, receipt of legal advice, settlement of legal claims or discussions of the public entity’s position in a legal case.
- Discussion regarding the development of security personnel or devices.
- Investigative proceedings or allegations of criminal misconduct.
- Discussion of matters concerning the proposed location, expansion or provision of services that would incentivize a business to locate or expand within the jurisdiction. The body does not need to identify the business to be specific enough.
The motion to enter executive session should be specific. For example, the presiding officer can announce a specific purpose “to go into executive session to discuss applications for employment within [a specific department]” or “to discuss negotiation of a contract and receipt of legal advice related to a building project.”
Once in executive session, council can only take two actions — return to public session, or adjourn the meeting. Polling councilmembers in executive session is improper.