CURWENSVILLE – The Curwensville Borough Council committee meeting ended abruptly Monday night when a member of the press protested the closing of the meeting for an executive session, stating that it was in violation of the state’s Sunshine Act.
When the executive session was called for at the end of the meeting, council was asked the purpose of the executive session. Council President Sara Curulla responded that it was for personnel.
Council was then asked which department and the answer was “the employees.” A protest was then officially made regarding the executive session.
The reporter stated that the reason cited for closing the meeting violates the Sunshine Act and asked council to reconsider. Council was also asked to record the protest into the meeting minutes, as required by law.
“Why are you bringing this up again?” Curulla asked. The response was that council has been repeatedly violating the Sunshine Act, and they are required to say what the executive session is for and, if for personnel, which department.
Some council members seemed inclined to state which department, but then Curulla announced that the executive session would be cancelled and called for adjournment.
Under the provisions of Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act, an open meeting is considered the rule, not the exception and executive sessions are to be the exception to the regular conduct of meetings.
An executive session may only be held under certain circumstances. Those include: personnel matters, discussion regarding collective bargaining, consider the purchase or lease of real property, to consult with an attorney regarding possible or ongoing litigation or to discuss business that would reveal information otherwise considered confidential or privileged under law.
In regards to personnel matters, the Act specifically states: “To discuss any matter involving the employment, appointment, termination of employment, terms and conditions of employment, evaluation of performance, promotion or disciplining of any specific prospective public officer or employee or current public officer or employee employed or appointed by the agency, or former public officer or employee, provided, however, that the individual employees or appointees whose rights could be adversely affected may request, in writing, that the matter or matters be discussed at an open meeting.
“The agency’s decision to discuss such matters in executive session shall not serve to adversely affect the due process rights granted by law, including those granted by Title 2 (relating to administrative law and procedure). The provisions of this paragraph shall not apply to any meeting involving the appointment or selection of any person to fill a vacancy in any elected office.” (Section 708).
In regards to requesting specific details about the executive session, the legality of requesting such information was decided in The Reading Eagle Co. v. Council of the City of Reading, 1993, which was upheld on appeal.