In the Matter of a Request
for Advisory Opinion



     Advisory Opinion   #49

Redistricting Commission of the State of Connecticut, Applicant





On August 26, 1981, the Commission considered and agreed to respond to the request for an advisory opinion filed on behalf of the Redistricting Commission of the State of Connecticut.


In its request, the applicant states that it was created pursuant to Conn. Const. amend. XII (1965), as amended in 1980.  Under that provision, the Governor appointed eight members to the applicant; and those members are now mandated to choose the ninth and final member within 30 days of their appointment.


The applicant seeks this Commission's opinion as to whether its present membership can permissibly meet in executive session to discuss the appointment of its ninth member.


Under Conn. Gen. Stat. §l‑21, a public agency may hold an executive session for one or more of the purposes set forth in Conn. Gen. Stat. §l-l8a(a) upon the affirmative vote of two-thirds of its membership present and voting, taken at a public meeting.  Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-18a(e)(1), in turn, provides as a proper purpose for an executive session,


[d]iscussion concerning the appointment, employ­ment, performance, evaluation, health or dismissal of a public officer or employee, provided that such individual may require that discussion be held at an open meeting. . . .


The applicant is a public agency as defined in Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-18a(a).  The question thus becomes whether the proposed executive session discussion concerns the appointment of a "public officer."


A "public officer" is one who holds a "public office." Kelly v. Bridgeport, 111 Conn. 667, 670 (1930); Mechem on Public Officers, §1.  The, Connecticut Supreme Court has defined the essential characteristics of a "public office" as "(1) an authority conferred by law, (2) a fixed tenure of office, and (3) the power to exercise some portion of the sovereign functions of government."  Spring v. Constantino, 168 Conn. 563, 568 (1975); Kelly v. Bridgeport, supra at 671; Mechem on Public Officers, supra.


            It is the Commission's opinion that a member of the applicant is a "public officer." Under Conn. Const. amend. XII, each member of the applicant is endowed with an authority established by law; serves a fixed tenure of office; and exercises a portion

of an important sovereign function of government ‑ i.e., to alter congressional districts to conform to federal constitutional standards.  See Conn. Const. art. III, §6(1965).


Consequently, it is the Commission's opinion that the present membership of the applicant may meet in executive session to discuss the appointment of its ninth member. Such a session, however, must still comply with all of the other requirements for an executive session, as set forth in the Freedom of Information Act, particularly Conn. Gen. Stats. §§ 1‑18a (e) (1), 1-21 and 1-21g.


Finally, the Commission wishes to emphasize that by this advisory opinion, it is not implicitly approving any decision by the applicant to meet in executive, session.  It is merely stating its opinion that such a session is legally permissible under the circumstances presented when held according to the procedures required by the Freedom of Information Act.  Indeed, because of the great importance of the applicant's constitutional mandate to our representative form of government, it is the Commission's belief that the applicant should exercise its discretion so as to maximize public access, to all of its meetings and records.



                                                                                            By Order of the Freedom of
                                                                                            Information Commission


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

Date  ___________________



Mary Jo Jolicoeur
Clerk of the Commission