Walking Quorums – Milwaukee County Board Members Accused of Violating Open Meetings Law

A recent Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article provides an important reminder that a violation of the Wisconsin Open Meetings law can occur if government business is discussed between board members even if a quorum is not present.  This can occur if individual members discuss the same subject with one another and come to an agreement regarding how to proceed prior to an official, properly noticed  meeting of the full body.  This is often referred to as a “walking quorum”.  In this case, a number of Milwaukee County Board members are accused of meeting one on one with each other until the “one on one” meetings between enough members resulted in a majority of the board arriving at a tacit decision regarding terminating the employment of a county employee.  From a practical perspective, this can occur when one board member calls a member to discuss an issue, and that member calls a member to discuss the same issue and so on until enough such calls have been placed that a majority has arrived at a conclusion before the public even knows that there is an issue under consideration.  This can also occur by email and by in person meetings.  Such violations can result in prosecution.  If you are discussing governmental business with other members of the governing body outside of a noticed meeting, caution should be taken to make sure you do not engage in a walking quorum.

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