Fine-tuning proposed for Pa. Sunshine Law

    A proposal in the Pennsylvania House seeks to tighten the rules allowing public officials to hold closed-door meetings.

    Rep. Rick Saccone is offering a number of tweaks to the part of the state Sunshine Act allowing city councils and school boards to hold “executive sessions.”

    Holding such meetings, which are out of the public eye, is allowed when discussing things such as litigation, labor contracts, and confidential information.

    Saccone, R-Allegheny, would like to add emergency preparedness and security discussions to the list.

    Otherwise, he said, he’s trying to inject some specificity into the exemptions allowing for executive session — including the one provided for discussions of employees.

    “Anytime they’re talking about personnel, the elected officials can … call an executive session, go behind closed doors, under the guise of talking about personnel, which is a very broad subject area,” he said. “And in fact, many things about personnel can be discussed in public.

    Saccone’s bill also would require executive sessions to be recorded and the files to be kept for at least a year. He says having the sessions taped would help settle any challenges over whether they were improperly shrouded from the public.

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