FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

 

In the Matter of a Request
    for Advisory Opinion

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)     Advisory Opinion   #9

 

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Richard W. Crane, Applicant

)     February 11, 1976

 

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At its meeting of January 14, 1976, the Commission agreed to furnish an advisory ruling in response to the request of the above‑named applicant.

 

The applicant stated that he is a member of the Board of Selectmen of the Town of Woodbury, which functions through a combination of a town meeting and a board of selectmen.

 

He first asked whether or not Public Act 75‑342 applies to the Woodbury Board of Selectmen, which consists of three members.

 

This inquiry is answered in the affirmative for the reason that a board of selectmen is a public agency in that it is an executive and administrative office of a political subdivision of the State. The number of the members provided by law to serve as the board of selectmen has nothing to do with the application of P.A. 75‑342, since no such limitation is stated in the Act.

 

In his second question the applicant asked whether two members of the Board of Selectmen can meet, discuss, and act on matters over which the Board has control by claiming to meet in caucus subject to the exclusion set forth in 1(b) of P.A. 75‑342.


 

This is answered in the negative. It is recognized that two members of a three‑man board may well consist of both the quorum and the political majority of the public agency. This is clearly one of the many circumstances that the General Assembly had in mind at the time that it adopted P.A. 75‑342. It is possible under the Act for the two members to meet and discuss business of the Board of Selectmen and for such a meeting and discussion to be a political caucus since their joint conclusion will be expressed publicly as the political position of the majority political party within that public agency at the time the agency meets and acts.

 

However, for purposes of P.A. 75‑342, the public agency cannot be regarded as having acted on such matters as are discussed in a caucus. It is an elementary concept of Connecticut common law that,

 

"Members of a municipal board cannot exercise their powers and duties separately. They must meet and act as a board at authorized meetings duly held. Jack v. Torrant, 136 Conn. 414, 420, 71 A.2d 705; 2 Am. Jr. 2d, Administrative Law, 227. An informal discussion is not a formally convened session such as required by law. State Tax Commission v. El Paso Natural Gas Co., 73 Ariz. 43, 46, 236 P.2d 1026. (Ziomek v. Bartimole, 156 Conn. 604, 612, 1968)

 

It must follow, therefore, that in the absence of a meeting of the Board of Selectmen, held as a board and not as a political party caucus, the Board of Selectmen of the Town of Woodbury would not be found to have met, to have discussed, or to have acted when a caucus and not a meeting is conducted, despite the fact that the caucus consists of a quorum of the members of the public agency.

 

 

                                                                                            By Order of the Freedom of
                                                                                            Information Commission

                                                                                           

                                                                                ________________________
                                                                                            Herbert Brucker, Chairman of
                                                                                            of the Freedom of Information
                                                                                            Commission

Date ___________________

 

Ordered_________________

Louis J. Tapogna, Clerk