Question: I am reporting on a Massachusetts town’s search for a candidate to fill the position of Town Counsel. The town appointed a committee to screen candidates for the position, and the committee announced that it will meet in a closed session to review and discuss the applications. Can they do this, or must their meeting be open to the public?
Answer: Massachusetts law provides that the meeting of a public body to discuss candidates for a job position is, like all meetings of public bodies, presumptively open to the public. If a public body tasks a subcommittee with screening the candidates, however, the law permits the subcommittee, under certain limited circumstances, to meet in executive session. (If a public body chooses to review applications itself, without appointing a subcommittee, it must do so in a public session.) A subcommittee must be comprised of less than a quorum of the public body, and it may only meet in private if the following two conditions are met: (1) the subcommittee’s meeting is a “preliminary screening” and (2) meeting in an open session would have a detrimental effect on obtaining qualified applicants for the position.
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