In the Matter of a Request
    for Advisory Opinion





)     Advisory Opinion   #16



Town of Conventry, Applicant

)     May 25, 1976








The Commission has agreed to furnish an advisory opinion in response to the request of the Town of Coventry.


The Town Council has appointed a Steering Committee and a Finance Committee as subcommittees of the Council, consisting of three members each. These committees were not established under the town charter, the town ordinances, or the general statutes of the State of Connecticut. The inquiries are as follows:


"l. Do meetings of these Committees constitute official meetings
within the terms of the Freedom of Information Act?


"2. Does the Freedom of Information Act require that if two members
(a quorum) of a, particular committee discuss matters relative to
committee action, in person or by telephone, this constitutes a meeting
in the context of the Freedom of Information Act?"


First addressing itself to the form of these questions, the Commission notes that there is no distinction made between categories of "official" meetings and meetings that are not "official" in P.A. 75-342. Either a meeting has occurred under the definition stated in §l(b) or it has not. In the explanation that follows, the Commission will limit itself to applying this definition to the facts submitted.




The subcommittees described in this inquiry are, in fact, part of a public agency, the Town Council, as the Attorney General pointed out in the Opinion of October 16, 1975, addressed to the Chancellor of the Commission for Higher Education:


"In practice a committee can be a single governmental employee who is preparing a report to be submitted to a public agency or who is performing some

ministerial act as the instrumentality of that agency. At the other extreme the committee can as readily be a ‘committee of the whole' that is convening to inquire, analyze, study, or suggest various possible courses of action to itself as a public agency. Both cases and all of the possibilities that lie between them assume that such a committee was duly created within the scope of the powers of the public agency and that it functions through that agency. So the committee is, in fact, a part of a public agency within the meaning of P.A. 75-342.


"Because the committee is part of a public agency, its records are defined to be included within those records of the agency that are public records to the extent that any other agency records are subject to access under Sec. 1-19, G.S., as amended by Sec. 2 of P.A. 75-342.


"Similarly the analysis of a question whether or not a meeting of a committee is governed by P.A. 75-342 turns on the definition of a meeting set forth in Sec. l(b). The Act says that a meeting is any hearing or other proceeding of a public agency and any convening or assembly of a, quorum of a multi-member public agency to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power.


"In this context the nature, content and effect of the performance of the committee's functions determines the application of the Act to the committee's meetings. If a meeting is to include no members of the public agency, if its actions are entirely ministerial, if it controls none of the discretionary exercise of governmental power delegated to the agency, these circumstances would weigh in favor of concluding that the meeting was not, in fact, a meeting of the public agency. On the other hand, if the agency members were present and if the committee was discussing or acting upon matters within the agency's supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power in such a way as to exercise in some manner the powers of the agency, the committee meeting would be more likely to be found to be a 'meeting' within Sec. l(b).



"From all of the foregoing comments it should be clear that the facts and the application of P.A. 75-342 will vary from case to case. It is the role of the Freedom of Information Commission to consider such facts on the occasion of a complaint (Sec. 14, P.A. 75-342) or a, request for a declaratory ruling (Sec. 4-176, G.S.)."





The request of the Town Council under §4-176., G.S., is consistent with the last quoted paragraph of the Attorney General's Opinion.


            1. The meetings of the subcommittees described are not meetings of the Coventry Town Council for the following reasons.  The respective subcommittees each consist of three members, while the Council consists of seven members. Therefore, neither a quorum of the subcommittee nor a, meeting of the entire membership of the subcommittee could constitute a meeting of a quorum of the Town Council, as defined in §l(b) of P.A. 75-342. Secondly, there has been no delegation of the powers of the Council to either sub committee, since none has been authorized by statute, charter, or ordinance. From this it is concluded that the subcommittee cannot lawfully exercise any power of the Town Council at any meeting of the subcommittee. On the other hand, it is clear that these subcommittees discuss and prepare recommendations on which the Council may or may not act upon matters within the Council's supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power. In the event that it should be shown in a given case that the subcommittee's disposition of any matter was treated by the Council as having been so conclusive as to preclude independent consideration and action by the Council, then this Commission could conclude that the meeting of that subcommittee was a meeting of the Council. Where such an event occurs, the subcommittee should comply with the requirements of notice and access set forth in P.A. 75-342.


2.         Where two members of the three‑member subcommittee discuss matters within the purview of the subcommittee over the telephone or in person and where that subcommittee is not otherwise meeting or acting, the Commission will not ordinarily conclude that the Coventry Town Council has conducted a meeting.



                                                                                            By Order of the Freedom of
                                                                                            Information Commission


                                                                                            Herbert Brucker, Chairman of
                                                                                            of the Freedom of Information

Date  ___________________



                                                                                                         Louis J. Tapogna, Clerk