In the Matter of a Request
for Advisory Opinion



     Advisory Opinion   #42

Representative Thirman L. Milner,






On July 9, 1980, the Commission considered and agreed to respond to the request for an advisory opinion filed by the Honorable Thirman L. Milner, State Representative for the Seventh District.


In his request, the applicant brought to the Commission's attention that a number of municipal agencies across the state held meetings on January 15, 1980.  Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-4, January 15th of each year has been designated as a legal holiday known as "Martin Luther King Day."


In essence, the applicant seeks the Commission's opinion con­cerning the applicability of Conn. Gen. Stat. §1‑21f with respect to meetings of public agencies scheduled or held on Martin Luther King Day or other legal holidays.


Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-21f provides that "[I]f at any time any regular meeting falls on a holiday, such regular meeting shall be held on the next business day." (Emphasis added). This provision is not discretionary.  It is mandatory, as suggested by the legislature's use of the word "shall."


Although the word "holiday" is not defined or modified in this section, it is the Commission's opinion that it refers to all legal holidays set forth in §1-4, including Martin Luther King Day.  This conclusion is based upon the General Assembly's designation, by statute, of certain days as holidays.  Thus, in this context, §1-21f is binding upon all agencies, whether or not such holidays are actually observed by the closing of public offices or schools.


Furthermore, it is the Commission's opinion that the word "holiday" also refers to all other holidays designated by each particular political subdivision and during which its public offices are closed for business.  This construction is buttressed by the procedure in §1-21f requiring regular meetings falling on holidays to be "held on the next business day."  But in this case, the statute is binding only upon the agencies of the subdivision so designating and celebrating such holidays.


As noted above, only regular meetings are subject to the provision in question.  It is the Commission's opinion that this limitation was intended to permit agencies some latitude to conduct business on holidays when they deem it necessary in the public interest.  To understand this concept and the policy behind the quoted language of §1-21f, it is therefore helpful to discuss the kinds of meetings recognized by the Freedom of Information Act


Except for the General Assembly, Conn. Gen. Stat. §1‑21 structures all meetings of public agencies into three categories exclusively: regular, special and emergency. Again, except for the General Assembly, each of these categories can be distinguished essentially by its notice requirements and purpose. Each will be explained seriatim according to this analysis.


Regular meetings are noticed annually, with the agency filing a schedule of such meetings with the Secretary of the State, in the case of state agencies, or with the appropriate municipal clerk, in the case of political subdivision agencies.  These meetings are scheduled in advance, and typically held periodically, to implement an agency's plan for the disposition of anticipated business during the course of a year.


Special meetings, on the other hand, are scheduled between, or in the absence of, regular meetings.  Notice of each special meeting must be posted in the office of the Secretary of the State or the appropriate municipal clerk, as the case may be.  The notice must be posted at least 24 hours prior to the convening of the meeting; and it must set forth in particular the time, place and specific business to be transacted at such meeting. Notice must also be given to each agency member, as described in §1-21.  Special meetings are designed to give an agency flexibility in dealing with business that was not anticipated when the schedule of regular meetings was filed and which, in the agency's judgment, should be treated before its next regular meeting.


Emergency meetings do not require advance public notice, although they have more stringent minutes requirements, including a state­ment of the nature of the emergency justifying such a meeting.  These meetings are likewise designed to give an agency flexibility in dealing with matters that necessitate immediate agency consideration, and therefore 24 hours' advance notice for a special meeting is not possible.


In light of the foregoing, it is the Commission's opinion that the legislature intended to effectuate several related policies in enacting the quoted provision of §1-21f. First, it intended to discourage the holding of meetings on holidays generally.  This policy is designed to honor the subjects of the holidays, such as great Americans like Martin Luther King.  That, of course, is the basic reason why holidays are proclaimed. But, in addition, the statute serves to prevent agencies from meeting at times when people may typically be on vacation, or are otherwise not expecting public business to be transacted.  The Commission believes that is why §1-21f not only prohibits the holding of regular meetings on holidays, but establishes a uniform system for rescheduling such meetings on the next business day. By this means, the public will be duly apprised of when such meetings falling on holidays will, in fact, be held.  Finally, the provision in question recognizes, as does the categorization of meetings in §1-21, that some matters may require prompt agency action overriding the policy considera­tions against holding meetings on holidays.


It is the Commission's opinion that its interpretation of the word "holiday" as used in §1-21f, adequately clarifies the applicability of that statute to Martin Luther King Day and other state and local holidays.  The problem in applying this provision, however, is less an issue of legal construction than a searching for a practical solution to the vagaries in designating and celebrating holidays on both the state and local level.  Since it would be improper for the Commission to exercise control over such designations and celebrations, it can only urge all public agencies to be guided by the policies underlying §1-21f, as explained in this opinion, in the scheduling and holding of their meetings.



                                                                                            By Order of the Freedom of
                                                                                            Information Commission


                                                                                            Judith A. Lahey, Chairman of
                                                                                            of the Freedom of Information

Date  ___________________



Leslie Ann McGuire, Clerk of the Commission