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Freedom of Information Law Supreme Court Slip Opinion

by Booth, George


SC20378 - Meriden v. Freedom of Information Commission (Freedom of Information; Whether Appellate Court Properly Held that a Gathering of Less than a Quorum of Meriden City Council Members did not Constitute a "Meeting" Subject to FOIA's Open Meeting Requirements; "Although all meetings of individuals may be gatherings, the general question before us is whether all gatherings of individuals are necessarily meetings. More specifically, this certified appeal requires us to construe the meaning of the term "meeting" as it is defined in the Freedom of Information Act (act), General Statutes § 1-200 et seq. Even more precisely, the narrow issue we must decide is whether a gathering of individuals comprising less than a quorum of the members of a city council, together with the mayor and the city manager, constitutes a "hearing or other proceeding of a public agency"; General Statutes § 1-200 (2); and, therefore, a "meeting" within the meaning of the act. If that gathering was a meeting, it was subject to the open meeting requirements of the act. See General Statutes § 1-225 (a).

The defendant Freedom of Information Commission appeals from the judgment of the Appellate Court, which reversed the judgment of the trial court and concluded that the plaintiffs, the city of Meriden and the Meriden City Council, did not violate the open meeting requirements of the act. Meriden v. Freedom of Information Commission, 191 Conn. App. 648, 650, 663, 665, 216 A.3d 847 (2019). On appeal, the commission claims that the Appellate Court incorrectly determined that a "hearing or other proceeding" refers to a process of adjudication, which fell outside the scope of the activities conducted during the gathering at issue in this case. (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 659.


Applying these principles to the facts of this case, we conclude that the gathering of the leadership group with the mayor and the retiring city manager was not a "hearing or other proceeding" of a public agency under § 1-200 (2). The mayor and the retiring city manager had no authority to create the city manager search committee. There is no evidence in the record that the leadership group was formed pursuant to any official resolution of the city council, and it had no independent, express authority to take any action regarding the formation of the search committee that could legally bind the city council. There is no statute, ordinance, bylaw, or other legal source of power granting the leadership group any authority to act, either as a group or on behalf of the city council. Indeed, that is why the leadership group submitted the resolution to the full city council for its consideration and a vote. See Meriden City Charter § C5-1 ("[t]he [c]ity [m]anager . . . shall be appointed . . . by the [c]ity [c]ouncil"). The commission acknowledges in its brief that it was the city council "as a whole" that had responsibility for hiring a new city manager. Accordingly, because the gathering of the leadership group with the mayor and the retiring city manager did not constitute a "hearing or other proceeding of a public agency," and, therefore, a "meeting," the gathering was not subject to the act's open meeting requirements.

The judgment of the Appellate Court is affirmed.")