In the Matter of a Request
 for Advisory Opinion



     Advisory Opinion   #63

Town Clerk, Town of North Branford, Applicant





On August 28, 1985, the Commission considered and agreed to respond to the request for an advisory opinion filed by the Town Clerk, Town of North Branford.


In her letter of request, the applicant states that the town police commission has created a "Juvenile Diversion Panel." The panel consists of seven members appointed by the police commission and the chief of police. Members include the police youth officer, the town's human relations director and five term members chosen so as to include a school administrator, a member of the clergy and three town residents.


The panel meets regularly and specially as required. Its primary function is to make recommendations to the chief of police concerning cases of juveniles referred to it by the town's police department, human relations agency and school system, and by the juveniles themselves and their parents or guardians. It is also to act as an alternative to juvenile court, to serve as an advocate for offending juveniles and to make recommendations to coordinate supportive and rehabilitative services. All recommendations by the panel are subject to approval by the chief of police.


In essence, the applicant seeks the Commission's opinion as to whether this juvenile diversion panel constitutes a public agency subject to the requirements of the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act. The applicant claims that the panel has received no funding and that its business would fall under categories exempt from public disclosure. Therefore, the applicant asserts that all of the panel's meetings would properly be held in executive session.


For purposes of the FOI Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. 51‑18a(a) defines "public agency" in relevant part as:







any... town agency, any department, institution, bureau,

board, commission, authority or official of ... any city,

town, borough... [or] municipal including any committee of any corporation:...such office, subdivision, agency, department, institution. bureau, board, commission, authority or official ...


Likewise, for purposes of the FOI Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. §1‑18a(b) defines "meeting" as:


any hearing or other proceeding of a public agency, any convening or assembly of a quorum of a multimember public agency, and any communication by or to a quorum of a multimember public agency.... to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory Rower.


It is the Commission's opinion that the juvenile diversion panel is a public agency for purposes of the FOI Act in that it is a multi‑member government body, created by a town agency to function in an advisory and administrative capacity. It is also the Commission's opinion that the panel's meetings are meetings of a public agency within the meaning of Conn. Gen. Stat. §1‑18a(b) and therefore subject generally to the open meetings provisions of the FOI Act.


The Commission notes that even if much of the panel's business is confidential (an issue not raised by the applicant nor addressed here), not all of its business may be withheld from public scrutiny. For example, Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-21(a) requires public notice of all regular and special meetings. Likewise, the same section requires that the necessary vote to convene in executive session be held at a public meeting and state the statutory reasons for the session. Of course, if there are no statutory reasons for an executive session as set forth in Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-18a(e), the panel must meet in public. Thus, matters of internal administration must ordinarily be held in public. In this regard, also see Conn. Gen. Stat. §§1-19(a) and 1-19b(a) with respect to agency 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