Holiday Parties with Other Board Members

We are thinking about having a holiday party at a board member’s house. Has anyone done this or is this a big no no?

  1. Great idea; I have attended many. Be careful with alcohol and driving home.

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  2. We have done this on several occasions. It is our rule not to discuss board business at these meetings as that would be in contradiction of the open meeting law. This is not difficult as the party is our way of connecting as the people we are, other than as board members.

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  3. You have to differentiate between a purely social event and a meeting. Conducting business means you have to abide by the Open Meeting Law. If you want to just gobble burgers and have a good time, that is also OK but it is a different animal.

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  4. Great question! I would think if we followed the rule, ? it would be a Board meeting if there was a quorum in attendance.

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  5. All board meetings should be public, PERIOD!

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  6. I would check with the Secretary of State’s office for a clear ruling. I am sure the recommendation is to not hold such a gathering. At a minimum, there should be NO decisions made, and shop talk should be kept to as little as possible.

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  7. I have been on my board for about 10 years and chair for 5 years. Every summer we hold a ‘meeting’ at my home. I make sure we warn the meeting in the paper and through all the regular official channels. We actually hold a brief meeting, do required business only, and then quickly adjourn to a pot luck dinner and BBQ so Board members, families and friends can enjoy the evening. We certainly don’t vote on anything or call the meeting back into session. Our conversation is light, socially focused.

    One year a reporter showed up. I let her in and she quickly got the message that this was a social function. She grabbed a burger, thanked us, and left. I imagine you could get someone hostile that will show up but it would be so out of place that it would destroy their mission, instead of your party. I think the risk of a party crasher is very, very low. Go for it and enjoy! – just make sure if a quorum attends that you warn the meeting.

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  8. I wish to offer the following guidance from past research. I think the person asking the question has very good instincts to question the appropriates of this plan.
    I have long held that retreats and meetings should never be held at private homes because it circumvents the spirit of the open meeting law. Since we are doing the peoples business, we are obligated to hold such meetings at locations that are well known, convenient and comfortable for the public to attend. Holding a public meeting at a private home chills the publics access to such a public meeting and their ability to observe government decision making.

    One of our school districts has in the past held retreats at a board member’s private home. I have jokingly threatened to show up at the private home with a bus load of boy scouts interested in observing our democracy in action. I was trying to humorously make the point that the public may not always just be an occasional parent that shows up at a meeting.

    With that said however, according to VT public meeting law experts, a party is not a public meeting unless a quorum is present and “school Business” is discussed. This may be difficult to police but in theory is possible to do without running afoul of the open meeting laws.

    I think that the real question goes to motive. Are you planning a meeting that is disguised as a party and hope to exclude the public from watching you make decisions or are you planning a much needed social activity for relaxation, enjoyment and camaraderie and would like nothing else to discuss anything but school stuff.

    If it is the later, I think it would be OK with the clear proviso that serious discussion of school business in groups constituting a quorum must be not be permitted and of course absolutely no decisions could be made. It would also be better if more than just school board members were present.

    Ultimately, the integrity of the group will determine if it was a legal or illegal event. Good luck.

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  9. Yes you can but you can not discuss any school business at the party!!!

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  10. The ‘Board’ cannot hold a party anywhere without inviting the public. If it isn’t a warned meeting of the ‘Board’ you aren’t on the ‘Board’ at the time of the party. Just make sure no discussion takes place that can be construed as taking the place of a meeting. Talk about and invitations to the party should not be conducted or initiated at a board meeting.

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  11. Anytime you have a quorum of Board members together, you need to warn the meeting and allow any interested parties to join the meeting (party). I would personally think twice about going ahead with the party. Even if warned, it places the Board members in an awkward position. I think that normally the Board members’ common interest is schools and discussion may drift to schools. Since there is probably not going to be an agenda this really sounds like conducting board business without an open meeting. My opinion is that this is at least a little no, no.

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