Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Nonprofits that accept government funding can sometimes unexpectedly find themselves subject to the open meeting laws that apply to public bodies. Capital Area Legal Services Corporation (CALSC), a nonprofit corporation operating in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, faces this issue in litigation brought by a former Executive Director that has already generated two state trial court decisions and one previous state appellate court decision. The latest chapter is Wayne v. Capital Area Legal Services Corporation, 2014 La. App. LEXIS 1148 (May 2, 2014), in which the appellate court concluded that CALSC is not a public body for purposes of the Louisiana Open Meeting Law under a recently revised interpretation of that statute by the Louisiana Supreme Court. The appellate court found that the term "authorities" in the statue is limited to entities created by the government, and so the following facts led it to affirm the grant of summary judgment on this issue in favor of CALSC (footnote omitted):
We find that CALSC is not an "authority" for the purpose of the Open Meetings Law because it is not a creature of government. It is undisputed that CALSC is a private, non-profit corporation that was incorporated in 1958 by the Baton Rouge Bar Association. It is further undisputed that CALSC has never been sponsored by any governmental resolution, nor has it been designated as an agency by any political subdivision.
The decision therefore sets a relatively high bar for parties seeking to assert that a nonprofit corporation would be subject to the Open Meeting Law in Louisiana.