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AGO Opinion 97012

Application of the Nebraska Public Meetings Statutes, Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 84-1408 Through 84-1414 (1994, Cum. Supp. 1996), to Meetings of a County Hospital Authority Formed Under the Hospital Authorities Act, Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 23-1379 Through 23-35,120 1
Opinion 97012


DATE: February 14, 1997


SUBJECT: Application of the Nebraska Public Meetings Statutes, Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 84-1408 Through 84-1414 (1994, Cum. Supp. 1996), to Meetings of a County Hospital Authority Formed Under the Hospital Authorities Act, Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 23-1379 Through 23-35,120 1991, Cum. Supp. 1996)




REQUESTED BY: Deborah R. Gilg

Keith County Attorney




WRITTEN BY: Don Stenberg, Attorney General

Dale A. Comer, Assistant Attorney General






In your opinion request letter, you state that Keith County

has had a long standing hospital authority formed under the

Hospital Authorities Act, Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 23-1379 through 23-

35,120 (1991, Cum. Supp. 1996) (the "Act"), where the Keith County

Board makes the appointment of members to the authority board.

You also note that the hospital authority has recently started a

campaign to fund the construction of a new hospital, and that the

Ogallala Community Hospital receives sales tax revenues from the

City of Ogallala for the operation of the hospital. You then ask,

"whether the hospital authority is subject to the County Purchasing

Act for competitive bidding and, whether the hospital authority is

subject to the open meetings law."




In our Op. Att'y Gen. #88024 (March 17, 1988), we stated that

we would issue formal opinions of the Attorney General to County

Attorneys in Nebraska only with respect to questions involving

"criminal matters" and "matters relating to the public revenue."

That policy was based upon our statutory authority and the

resources available to this office. We continue to adhere to that

policy. As a result, since the question you raised regarding the

County Purchasing Act and competitive bidding does not appear to

involve either criminal matters or matters relating to the public

revenue, we cannot provide you with a formal opinion on that issue.

However, we do have enforcement authority under the Nebraska Public

Meetings Statutes, Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 84-1408 through 84-1414

(1994, Cum. Supp. 1996). Consequently, we will offer our opinion

as to whether the hospital authority in Keith County is subject to

those statutes, since we could be called upon to enforce the public

meetings laws with respect to that governmental subdivision. Our

opinion with regard to the Public Meetings Statutes, therefore,

reflects our enforcement policy in connection with the question you

raised.




The Hospital Authorities Act, supra, deals with the

establishment of county hospital authorities in Nebraska. Among

other things, that Act sets out procedures for the formation of

hospital authorities and the powers of those organizations. For

example, under § 23-3594, such an authority is a "public

corporation and body politic" of this state with broad powers to

sue and be sued, to purchase and hold property of every kind, and

to purchase and construct hospitals within the territorial limits

of the hospital authority. Under §§ 23-3593 and 23-3595, the

operation of any hospital established by a hospital authority is

vested in a board of trustees which is appointed by the appropriate

county board after nomination by the electors of the county through

a petition process. County hospital authorities also have the

power to issue bonds under the Act.




Neb. Rev. Stat. § 84-1409 (1) (Cum. Supp. 1996) establishes

the various types of governmental entities which are subject to the

Public Meetings Statutes in Nebraska. Subsection (c) of § 84-

1409(1), in turn, defines a public body as:




all independent boards, commissions, bureaus, committees,

councils, subunits, or any other bodies, now or hereafter

created by the Constitution of Nebraska, statute, or

otherwise pursuant to law,




In light of the elaborate statutory scheme creating county hospital

authorities found in the Hospital Authorities Act, it seems to us

that such authorities clearly fall under § 84-1410(1)(c) as a

"subunit" or "body" created by statute. Therefore, we believe that

county hospital authorities created under the Act are subject to

the Public Meetings Statutes.




Our conclusion with respect to county hospital authorities is

supported by the Nebraska Supreme Court's decision in Nixon v.

Madison County Agricultural Society, 217 Neb. 37, 348 N.W.2d 119

(1984), where the Court held that county agricultural societies,

organized under the Nebraska statutes, are subject to the Public

Meetings Statutes, in part, because they have the right to receive

funds from the public revenue. You have indicated that the

hospital authority in Keith County receives funds from the City of

Ogallala. We have also previously indicated that a county welfare

board is subject to the public meetings law as an independent board

created by statute. 1979-80 Rep. Att'y Gen. 351 (Opinion No. 244,

dated March 4, 1980).




Sincerely yours,




DON STENBERG

Attorney General








Dale A. Comer

Assistant Attorney General




05-59-14.op




Approved by:








_________________________

Attorney General