In the Matter of a Request
    for Advisory Opinion





)     Advisory Opinion   #28



Anna LoPresti as First Selectman of the Town of Seymour, Applicant

)     August 9, 1977








The Commission has agreed to furnish an advisory opinion in response to a request by the First Selectman of the Town of Seymour. Simply stated, the question is this: whether, under the Freedom of Information Act, a public agency may act on any matter brought before it at a regular meeting under the following, or equivalent, agenda item:


"To consider and act upon any other business proper to come before said meeting."


The answer to this question is yes, as long as certain conditions are met beforehand.


Although this request was made before July 1, 1977, the General Assembly has enacted an amendment to the Freedom of Information Act, effective that date, which aids in the analysis and disposition of this problem. Section 1-21 of the General Statutes, as amended by P.A. 77-609, sec. 4, reads in pertinent part:









"The agenda of the regular meetings of every public agency, except for the general assembly, shall be available to the public and shall be filed', not less than twenty-four hours before the meetings to which they refer, in such agency's regular office or place of business or, if there is no such office or place of business, in the office of the secretary of the state for any such public agency of the state or in the office of the clerk of such subdivision for any public agency of a political subdivision of the state. Upon the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of a public agency present and voting, any subsequent business not included in such files agendas may be considered and acted upon at such meetings."


This provision requires for the first time that public agencies prepare and file agendas for their regular meetings at least twenty-four hours before the meetings to which they refer. There is also the further condition that subsequent business not on regular meeting agendas can be considered and acted upon only if two-thirds of the members present and voting, vote to do so.


The Commission is of the opinion that this section implies that the regular meeting agendas of non-exempt public agencies specify the business to be transacted, to the extent known. While the degree of specificity is indefinite, the Commission believes that each item on such agendas must be sufficiently described so that members of the public can be notified of the business at hand.


Based upon this standard, the Commission is of the opinion that the quoted agenda language, or its equivalent, cited by the applicant, is insufficient to give notice to the public of the subjects to be discussed or acted upon at prospective meetings. Therefore, the Commission concludes that such agenda language is actually notice that subsequent business, not on the agenda, may be undertaken. Under section 1-21, General Statutes, each such item of subsequent business would require the two-thirds vote of the members of the agency present and voting in order for each to be considered or acted upon.


The Commission cautions all public agencies that it reads section 1-21, General Statutes, as requiring good faith in the preparation of the regular meeting agendas. The Commission will take appropriate action if it finds that any agency deliberately either omitted an item of business from its filed agenda, or disguised it under language similar to that cited in the applicant's request. In such a case, the Commission will interpret the agency's use of the two-thirds vote mechanism as a device to keep the public unaware of the business the agency intends to transact.








                                                                                            By Order of the Freedom of
                                                                                            Information Commission


                                                                                            Helen M. Loy, Chairman of
                                                                                            of the Freedom of Information

Date  __August 24, 1977___



                                                                                                     Charlene G. Arnold, Clerk