Connecticut Open Meetings Law

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The Connecticut Open Meetings Law legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted. Statutes 1-200 through 1-259 of the State code define the law.

Which government meetings are open to the public?

The act defines meetings as all gatherings of or communications to a quorum of members of a multi-member public agency with the intention of discussing or deciding on public policy.

Notable exemptions to this definition include:

  • employment search committees for executive positions
  • chance meetings
  • collective bargaining
  • single party caucus meetings, if the group does not constitute a quorum[1]

What government bodies are subject to the laws?

The act defines government body as all executive, legislative and administrative bodies of both the state and all political subdivisions, including the judicial administration of the court as well as all committees or organizations created by the state.[1]

Notable exemptions to the definition of public body include:

  • The division of Criminal Justice is only considered a public body with regard to its administrative functions.[2]
  • Agencies may request that the Freedom of Information Commission exempt committees that they have been created by public bodies but are composed of members who are not members of a public body. The exemption must take into account the public interest in exempting the committee.[3]

==== Legislature====

Yes.pngp

The legislature falls under the definition of public body found at Connecticut Statute 1-200 and is subject to the Connecticut Open Meetings Law.

Notice requirements

All state agencies, except for the legislature, must post with the Secretary of State by January 31, the meetings schedule for all their regular meetings for the next year. Local bodies must file the same documentation with the municipal clerk. The legislature is required to post the same list on only odd number years. There can be no meetings held within the 30 days from when the schedule is filed.[4]

The agency must provide written notice of all regularly scheduled meetings to anyone who requests it.[5]

Agendas must be posted for each scheduled meeting at least 24 hours in advance of the scheduled meeting time. The agenda, however, can be overridden with a 2/3 vote of the present members.[4]

There cannot be less than 24 hours notice of a special meeting, and the notice must be filed in the office of the Secretary of State for any public agency, in the office of the clerk for any public agency of a political subdivision, and in the office of the clerk of each municipal member for any multi-town district or agency. The notice must include the time, date and material to be discussed. Nothing else can be discussed at the special meeting. Emergency meetings can be held without notice, provided that the agency post the minutes of the meeting within 72 hours and include an adequate justification of the emergency. In addition, written notice for special meetings must be delivered to the usual place of abode of each member. (This requirement is waived if a member files or telegrams a written waiver of delivery, or if the member is actually present at the meeting when it convenes).[4]

The act permits agencies to adopt more stringent notice requirements.

Meeting process

No member of the public shall be required, as a condition to attendance at a meeting, to register his name, or furnish other information, or complete a questionnaire or otherwise fulfill any condition precedent to his attendance.[4]

Any votes taken at the meeting must be posted within 48 hours. Meeting minutes must be posted within 7 days.[4]

Meetings may be recorded by either the media or an individual. Individual public agencies may adopt measures concerning the use of recording equipment.[6]

Agencies may adjourn a meeting and continue it within 24 hours so long as a notice of the adjournment is immediately posted outside of the meeting location and includes the time and location where the meeting will reconvene.[7]

Executive sessions

Common executive session exemptions
Personal privacy (including employees)Yes.pngp
Attorney-client privilege/litigationYes.pngp
Security/police informationYes.pngp
Purchase or sale of propertyYes.pngp
Union negotiations
Licensing exams/decisions
Exempt under other lawsYes.pngp

Executive sessions may be called to discuss the following matters:

  • To discuss public employees
  • To discuss pending claims and litigation
  • To discuss security information
  • To discuss planned purchase or sale of real estate, until all transactions have been completed
  • To discuss any records which are exempt under the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act[1]

The public body may only invite individuals who are needed to give testimony or provide opinions for the subject of the executive session. The attorney-client privilege is to be narrowly construed so as to only include the above justifications for calling an executive and no others.[8]

No other business shall be considered at special meetings.

If violated

Individuals have 30 days to file an appeal with the Freedom of Information Commission from the date it became known that the public agency had violated the law. The Commission must hold a hearing within 30 days of receiving the appeal and must decide within 60. In cases where the appellant is attempting to prevent a violation of the Open Meetings Law, the commission is required to hold a hearing within 72 hours of receiving the appeal. The commission is required to give notice of hearings at least 48 hours in advance of holding any hearing. The commission may impose penalties of fines between $20-$1000, on either the agency or the individual filing the suit, depending on who was wronged and if the suit was clearly designed to harass the public agency. It can also declare void any action taken at an illegal meeting. The decisions of the Commission can be appealed to district and later appellate courts.[9]

See also

External links

References