The Medical University of South Carolina’s Board of Trustees conducted a public meeting before its scheduled start time Thursday afternoon, breaking the state’s Freedom of Information Act, a press attorney confirmed.

The MUSC Board of Trustees meeting was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Thursday. At that time, The Post and Courier was informed that the board had convened an executive session, which is closed to the public, and that the regular meeting had already ended because the board started it early.

“The law requires notice and opportunity for the citizens to be there,” said Jay Bender, an attorney for the S.C. Press Association. “The Medical University is a political body of the state so clearly it’s subject to the Freedom of Information Act.”

MUSC’s Board of Trustees is made up of 14 members — 12 are elected by the state Legislature and two are chosen by the governor. The board oversees the operation of the university.

State law requires that public bodies give notice of public meetings, including “dates, times and places of such meetings.” The law also specifies that public bodies must notify media of scheduled or rescheduled meetings.

According to the agenda, the Board of Trustees discussed several topics including proposed tuition increases for students. Board members also heard reports from MUSC President Dr. Ray Greenberg and Dr. Pat Cawley, executive director of the medical center.

Board of Trustees secretary Celeste Jordan said the executive session was held to discuss contractual services.

After the meeting, Board Chairman Tom Stephenson said the board voted on a 3 percent tuition increase for students in the medical, dental and pharmacy schools. He said it was not the group’s intention to hide any information from the public.

Several committee meetings started at 8 a.m., he said, and when those meetings ran ahead of schedule, the board decided to start the regular meeting early.

It lasted about 15 minutes, he said.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.