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Open Meetings Act - Mootness - PEEHIP Premium Increase

Swindle v. Remington, [Ms. 1161044, Mar. 8, 2019] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2019). The Court (Bolin, J.; Parker, C.J., and Shaw, Wise, Bryan, Mendheim, and Stewart, JJ., concur) affirms a summary judgment entered by the Montgomery Circuit Court granting injunctive and declaratory relief to the president of the Alabama Education Association invalidating premium increases approved by the Public Education Employees Health Insurance Program (PEEHIP) Board in violation of the Alabama Open Meetings Act, § 36-25A-1, et seq., Ala. Code 1975.

On the morning of April 27, 2016, the Board met with PEEHIP staff in a closed “education session.” In an open meeting later that day, the Board voted to increase premiums effective October 2016. The circuit court invalidated the premium increases holding that the private morning session was a meeting of the Board held in violation of the Open Meetings Act. Ms. *59.

In March 2018, the Board rescinded the premium increases and spousal surcharges effective May 1, 2018. As a result, the Supreme Court concluded that any controversy concerning the injunctive relief ordered by the circuit court “was no longer present after the Board voted during an open meeting to reduce the premium rate effective May 1, 2018. Thus, the need for injunctive relief occurring on or after May 1, 2018, is moot.” Ms. *29.

The Court rejected the Board’s argument that a December 6, 2016, open meeting at which the Board voted not to rescind the premium increases mooted the challenged premium increase in its entirety. Ms. *34-35. The Court also rejected the Board’s argument that the private morning meeting fell within the “training-program” exception to the Open Meetings Act. The Court held “it is clear that the staff presentation regarding the same matters that would be considered for a vote later in the day and that included proposed increases in insurance premiums does not fall within the ‘training-program’ exception.” Ms. *41-42.

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