Sustained Outrage

WVU Secrecy III

Will Friday’s meeting of the West Virginia University Board of Governors — where board members are expected to name a new university president — be legal?

Remember that on Monday, WVU announced its selection committee (while meeting in private, unannounced meetings — See WVU Secrecy I)  had named two finalists. As my colleague Davin White reported, WVU said its governing board planned to pick one of the two on Friday, speeding up its selection process because apparently one of finalists won’t be available if a decision isn’t made really quickly.

So the next day, the WVU Board of Governors  filed a notice with the Secretary of State’s office to announce Friday’s big meeting.

The notice announced an “Emergency meeting” scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday at the Erickson Alumni Center in Morgantown. It listed this agenda:

 1.  Call to Order;  2. Executive Session – Under authority in West Virginia Code §6-9A-4(b)(2)(A) to discuss personnel matters related to the WVU Presidential Search;  3.Actions Emanating from Executive Session; and, 4.Adjournment

OK, here’s the problem:

Normally, West Virginia’s Open Governmental Proceedings Act requires state agencies like the WVU board to submit their meeting notices to the Secretary of State in time for them to be published 5 days prior to any meeting.

The public notice section of the law — that’s W.Va. Code 6-9A-3 — allows agencies to avoid the 5-day notice only “in the event of an emergency requiring immediate official action.”  In those cases, agencies “may file an emergency meeting notice at any time prior to the meeting.”

But there’s a catch. The law also says that:

The emergency meeting notice shall state the date, time, place and purpose of the meeting and the facts and circumstances of the emergency.

Maybe the emergency here is the board’s worry that one of its finalists won’t be available if they don’t act this week. But the meeting notice doesn’t say that — and it doesn’t explain how that constitutes an “emergency requiring immediate official action.”