Section 36-25A-2

Definitions.

As used in and for determining the applicability of this chapter, the following words shall have the following meanings solely for the purposes of this chapter:

(1) DELIBERATION. An exchange of information or ideas among a quorum of members of a subcommittee, committee, or full governmental body intended to arrive at or influence a decision as to how any members of the subcommittee, committee, or full governmental body should vote on a specific matter that, at the time of the exchange, the participating members expect to come before the subcommittee, committee, or full body immediately following the discussion or at a later time.

(2) EXECUTIVE SESSION. That portion of a meeting of a subcommittee, committee, or full governmental body from which the public is excluded for one or more of the reasons prescribed in Section 36-25A-7(a).

(3) GENERAL REPUTATION AND CHARACTER. Characteristics or actions of a person directly involving good or bad ethical conduct, moral turpitude, or suspected criminal activity, not including job performance.

(4) GOVERNMENTAL BODY. All boards, bodies, and commissions of the executive and legislative departments of the state or its political subdivisions or municipalities which expend or appropriate public funds; all multimember governing bodies of departments, agencies, institutions, and instrumentalities of the executive and legislative departments of the state or its political subdivisions or municipalities, including, without limitation, all corporations and other instrumentalities whose governing boards are comprised of a majority of members who are appointed or elected by the state or its political subdivisions, counties, or municipalities; all quasi-judicial bodies of the executive and legislative departments of the state; and all standing, special, or advisory committees or subcommittees of, or appointed by, the body. The term "governmental body" does not include any of the following:

a. Legislative party caucuses or coalitions.

b. Alabama appellate or trial courts, except as required by the constitution of this state or any body governed by rules of the Alabama Supreme Court.

c. Voluntary membership associations comprised of public employees, retirees, counties, municipalities, or their instrumentalities which have not been delegated any legislative or executive functions by the Legislature or Governor.

(5) JOB PERFORMANCE. The observed conduct or actions of a public employee or public official while on the job in furtherance of his or her assigned duties. Job performance includes whether a person is meeting, exceeding, or failing to meet job requirements or whether formal employment actions should be taken by the governmental body. Job performance does not include the general reputation and character of the person being discussed.

(6) MEETING. a. Subject to the limitations herein, the term meeting shall only apply to the following:

1. The prearranged gathering of a quorum of a governmental body or a quorum of a committee or subcommittee of a governmental body at a time and place which is set by law or operation of law.

2. The prearranged gathering of a quorum of a governmental body or a quorum of a committee or subcommittee of a governmental body during which the full governmental body, committee, or subcommittee of the governmental body is authorized, either by law or otherwise, to exercise the powers which it possesses or approve the expenditure of public funds.

3. The gathering, whether or not it was prearranged, of a quorum of a governmental body during which the members of the governmental body deliberate specific matters that, at the time of the exchange, the participating members expect to come before the full governmental body at a later date.

4. The gathering, whether or not it was prearranged, of a quorum of a committee or subcommittee of a governmental body during which the members of the committee or subcommittee deliberate specific matters relating to the purpose of the committee or subcommittee that, at the time of the exchange, the participating members expect to come before the full governmental body, committee, or subcommittee at a later date.

b. The term "meeting" shall not include:

1. Occasions when a quorum of a governmental body, committee, or subcommittee attends social gatherings, conventions, conferences, training programs, press conferences, media events, association meetings and events or gathers for on-site inspections or meetings with applicants for economic incentives or assistance from the governmental body, or otherwise gathers so long as the subcommittee, committee, or full governmental body does not deliberate specific matters that, at the time of the exchange, the participating members expect to come before the subcommittee, committee, or full governmental body at a later date.

2. Occasions when a quorum of a subcommittee, committee, or full governmental body gathers, in person or by electronic communication, with state or federal officials for the purpose of reporting or obtaining information or seeking support for issues of importance to the subcommittee, committee, or full governmental body.

3. Notwithstanding subparagraph 1., occasions when two members of a governmental body, including two members of a governmental body which has three members, gather for the sole purpose of exchanging background and education information or for the sole purpose of discussing an economic, industrial, or commercial prospect or incentive that does not include a conclusion as to recommendations, policy decisions, or final action on the terms or request or an offer of public financial resources.

c. Nothing herein shall restrict or prevent two members of the same full governmental body from talking together without deliberation, including two members of a full governmental body having only three members, and nothing herein shall restrict or prevent a mayor or executive director of a city or municipality who is not a voting member of the city or municipal council from talking or deliberating with a member of the city or municipal council.

(7) OPEN OR PUBLIC PORTION OF A MEETING. The open or public portion of a meeting is that portion which has not been closed for executive session in accordance with this chapter, for which prior notice was given in compliance with this chapter, and which is conducted so that constituents of the governmental body, members of the media, persons interested in the activities of the governmental body, and citizens of this state could, if they desired, attend and observe.

(8) PROFESSIONAL COMPETENCE. The ability of an individual to practice a profession within the profession's acceptable standards of care and responsibility. A profession is a vocation requiring certification by the State of Alabama or passage of a state licensing examination that may only be granted to or taken by persons who have completed at least three years of college-level education and obtained at least a college-level degree.

(9) PUBLIC EMPLOYEE. Any person employed at the state, county, or municipal levels of government or their instrumentalities, including governmental corporations and authorities, who is paid in whole or in part from state, county, or municipal funds. A public employee does not include a person employed on a part-time basis whose employment is limited to providing professional services other than lobbying, the compensation for which constitutes less than 50 percent of the part-time employee's income.

(10) PUBLIC FUNDS. Taxes or fees charged or collected by a governmental body or from the sale of public property including, but not limited to, matching funds from the federal government or income derived from the investment of taxes or fees.

(11) PUBLIC OFFICIAL. Any person elected to public office, whether or not that person has taken office, by the vote of the people at state, county, or municipal levels of government or their instrumentalities, including governmental corporations, and any person appointed to a position at the state, county, or municipal levels of government or their instrumentalities, including governmental corporations.

(12) QUORUM. Unless otherwise provided by law, a quorum is a majority of the voting members of a governmental body. Except where a governmental body is prohibited from holding a non-emergency meeting as defined in subdivision (6)a.1. between the date of election of members and the date such members take office, any person elected to serve on a governmental body shall be counted in the determination of whether a quorum of that governmental body is present, except for any meeting as defined in subdivisions (6)a.1. and 2., beginning on the date of certification of the results of the general election. In the case of appointment to a governmental body, any person shall be counted in the determination of whether a quorum of that governmental body is present, except for any meeting as defined in subdivisions (6)a.1. and 2., from the date that the appointment is made or issued whether or not the appointment is effective on that date.

(13) SERIAL MEETING. a. The term serial meeting applies to any series of gatherings of two or more members of a governmental body, at which:

1. Less than a quorum is present at each individual gathering and each individual gathering is attended by at least one member who also attends one or more other gatherings in the series.

2. The total number of members attending two or more of the series of gatherings collectively constitutes a quorum.

3. There is no notice or opportunity to attend provided to the public in accordance with this chapter.

4. The members participating in the gatherings deliberate specific matters that, at the time of the exchange, the participating members expect to come before the subcommittee, committee or full governmental body at a later date.

5. The series of gatherings was held for the purpose of circumventing the provisions of this chapter.

6. At least one of the meetings in the series occurs within seven calendar days of a vote on any of the matters deliberated.

b. The term serial meeting does not include:

1. Gatherings, including a gathering of two members of a full governmental body having only three members, at which no deliberations were conducted or the sole purpose was to exchange background and education information with members on specific issues.

2. A series of gatherings related to a search to fill a position required to file a statement of economic interests with the Alabama Ethics Commission pursuant to Section 36-25-14 until the search has been narrowed to three or fewer persons under consideration.

3. A gathering or series of gatherings involving only a single member of a governmental body.

4. A series of gatherings by the trustees of an institution of higher education established by the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended, involving a search to fill a position that directs the institution or a department or major divisions thereof, including the position of president, vice president, provost, dean, department head, or athletic coach.

5. A public official who is a member of a non-profit professional association comprised of members of the same profession, when discussing or participating in the formation of the policy or policies of the professional association of which the public official is a member. This exception shall apply to both legislative policies of the professional association and regulatory polices of the professional association of which the public official is a member, and regardless of whether or not a quorum of the members of the governmental body are members of the same professional association.

(Act 2005-40, p. 55, §2; Act 2015-340, §1; Act 2015-475, §1.)