FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

 

In the Matter of a Request
for Advisory Opinion


 

     Advisory Opinion   #50

Corporation Counsel, Town of East Hartford, Applicant

    

 

 

 

On October 14, 1981, the Commission considered and agreed to respond to the request for an advisory opinion filed by the Corporation Counsel of the town of East Hartford.

 

In his request, the applicant states that the East Hartford Town Council has established a "beautification" committee. This committee is composed of members of the town council. The chairman of the beautification committee has proposed the establishment of seven subcommittees, some of which have already been constituted. One of the established subcommittees has three council members among a general membership of seventeen. All of the other presently constituted subcommittees contain no members of the town council. The applicant presumes that the membership of the remaining sub-committees will be drawn from town residents who are not members of the town council. The function of the subcommittees is to make recommendations to the beautification committee, which, in turn, will make recommendations to the full town council for final action, if any.

 

In essence, the applicant seeks the Commission's opinion as to whether the above described subcommittees are public agencies subject to the open meetings provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

 

The term "subcommittee" in the context of this request is technically a misnomer. In ordinary usage, a "subcommittee" is part or division of a committee." Webster's New International Dictionary, 2nd ed. (unabridged). Implicitly, its membership is derived from the membership of the parent body, in this case the beautification committee of the town council. Thus, it is the Commission's opinion that each of the subcommittees here is really an ad hoc committee in its own right, the authority for which, and the appointments to which, emanate from the beautification committee itself. Because each subcommittee appears to be an official body of, the town of East Hartford, each constitutes a public agency within the meaning of Conn. Gen. Stat. 1‑18a(a). Consequently, it is the Commission's opinion that each subcommittee is subject to the open meetings provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, found generally at Conn. Gen. Stat. 1‑21 et seq.

 

The Commission is cognizant of the fact that the sub-committees function is purely recommendatory. But to the extent that any fact finding, deliberations and actions taken by these bodies ultimately may lead to town council action (or non-action), the public has a legitimate interest in the process by which such governmental decisions and policies have been formulated. See Conn. Gen. Stat. 1‑19(c). And, in the final analysis, this right of public access is not only an important underlying purpose of the Freedom of Information Act, it significantly determines the quality of the government that serves our citizenry.

 

 

                                                                                            By Order of the Freedom of
                                                                                            Information Commission

                                                                                           

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

Date ___________________

 

Ordered_________________

Mary Jo Jolicoeur
Clerk of the Commission