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Executive Sessions

About Executive Sessions

The Oregon form of government requires an informed public aware of the deliberations and decisions of governing bodies and the information upon which such decisions were made. It is the intent of the Public Meetings Law that decisions of governing bodies be arrived at openly.

The Public Meetings Law authorizes governing bodies to meet in executive session in certain limited situations. Executive sessions are "any meeting or part of a meeting of a governing body which is closed to certain persons for deliberation on certain matters." [ORS192.610(2)]. Meetings held in executive session are subject to Public Meetings Law.

The Oregon Government Ethics Commission (OGEC) has jurisdiction over the executive session provisions of Oregon Public Meetings Law.  These provisions cover the reasons a governing/public body may enter into an executive session and the process requirements. 

Executive Session Advice

How do you open and close executive sessions?
ORS 192.660(1) provides that a governing body may hold an executive session after the presiding officer has identified the statutory authorization for holding the executive session. The Commission’s interpretation is that an executive session begins when members of the public are removed or excluded from the executive session meeting. The Commission has adopted an Administrative Rule (OAR 199-040-0015) to clarify how to open and close an executive session.
The Administrative Rule explains that the announcement of the statutory authorization or other lawful basis for the executive session must be made in public, prior to entering the executive session:
  • If it is a stand-alone executive session or if it occurs before a public meeting, the public announcement must be made in a properly issued meeting notice.
  • If the executive session is held in conjunction with a public meeting, the announcement must be made during the portion of the meeting that is open to the public. (OAR 199-040- 0015(2)).
The Rule also clarifies that an “executive session ends when the meeting ceases to be closed to the public.” The Rule explains that if a public meeting will be held again after the executive session, the governing body must use reasonable means to give actual notice to interested persons that the meeting is again a public meeting. (OAR 199-040-0015(3)).
This point is further clarified in the Attorney General’s Public Records and Meetings Manual 2019:
A governing body meeting in executive session must return to public session before taking final action. This requirement cannot be circumvented by simply announcing, in executive session, that the meeting is now open, and then proceeding without affording interested persons a chance to attend. If a public meeting will be held again after the executive session, the desirable practice would be to announce, before the executive session, a specific time for returning to open session. Otherwise, reasonable means must be used to give actual notice to interested persons that the meeting is again a public meeting. If the executive session has been short, it may be sufficient to open the door and announce to persons in the hall that the meeting is open to the public. But clearly, returning to an unscheduled and unannounced “open session,” for which those attending the previous session have no notice and no opportunity to attend, does not comply with the law. (§ II.E.2).

What should you do if the executive session discussion is off topic?
Discussions in an executive session must be limited to the topics authorized by the statutory provisions cited for that executive session.
The topic(s) discussed in an executive session must be limited to those topics expressly permitted by the specific provision(s) under which the executive session was convened. Members of governing bodies may not discuss topics in executive session other than those delineated in ORS 192.660 or other state law permitting an executive session, even if the additional topics care related to the issue concerning which the governing body convened the executive session. (OAR 199-040-0220(1)).
If a governing body member is in an executive session and realizes that the topics being discussed are unauthorized or exceed the scope permitted by the statutory provisions cited, that governing body member should:
  1. State their objection to discussing the unauthorized topic.
  2. Announce on the record that they are leaving the executive session.
  3. Leave the executive session

Who is responsible for ensuring executive sessions comply with Public Meetings Law?

​Members of the governing body of the public body are responsible for ensuring that public meetings and executive sessions comply with Public Meetings Law.

When OGEC receives a complaint alleging a violation may have occurred, any investigations opened will be against the individual members of the governing body.  Each member will be subject to any civil penalties assessed by the Commission. Complaints regarding the executive session provisions of the Public Meetings Law cannot be opened against the public body's staff or the public body itself.

When can you hold an executive session for hiring?

​A governing body of a public body can meet in executive session to talk about hiring a public officer, employee, staff member or individual agent. Statues can be found in ORS 192.660(2(a) and ORS 192.660(7)(d)(A-D).

We have created a four step checklist that reviews the prerequisites that must be met before meeting in execuitve session.

4 Steps for Considering Employment in Executive Session (PDF)

Have questions about executive sessions?

​OGEC staff can provide advice and guidance on the application of the provisions in ORS 192.660 to future or hypothetical circumstances. If you have questions about the application of the executive session provision or whether they might apply to a specific situation, you can contact the OGEC staff by calling (503) 378-5105 or emailing

Attorney General's Public Records and Meetings Information & Manual 2019

The Oregon Department of Justice publishes the Attorney General's Public Records and Meetings Manual. This manual is available on the Oregon Department of Justices' website in PDF and HTML format. You can also purchase a print version.