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Tennessee Open Meetings Act FAQs

The Tennessee Open Meetings Act defines a “meeting” as “the convening of a governing body of a public body for which a quorum is required to make a decision or to deliberate toward a decision.” A “governing body” is “any public body [consisting] of two or more members, with the authority to make decisions for or recommendations to a public body on policy or administration.”  Tenn. Code Ann. § 8-44-102.

Meetings to make a recommendation to a single individual, such as a county mayor or dean of an educational institution, are not “meetings” covered by the Open Meetings Act. On-site inspections, chance meetings, and informational workshops are also not considered “meetings” under the Act, so long as there is no discussion or deliberation toward a decision that must be voted on by a quorum of a governing body. Advisory meetings with attorneys regarding anticipated or ongoing litigation are also exempt from the Tennessee Open Meetings Act, but actual decisions regarding litigation must be made at an open public meeting.

Adequate public notice is not defined in the Tennessee Open Meetings Act. Tennessee courts have determined that adequate public notice is sufficient notice under the circumstances that would fairly inform the public of the meeting. Memphis Publ'g Co. v. City of Memphis, 513 S.W.2d 511, 513 (Tenn. 1974).

The Tennessee Open Meetings Act grants the public the right to attend and observe public meetings, but it does not grant the public the right to participate or speak at a public meeting. Souder v. Health Partners, Inc., 997 S.W.2d 140 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1998). However, many governing bodies do allow the public to address the governing body for a set period of time at the beginning of public meetings.