November 19, 1974
THE HONORABLE FREDERIC LEE RUCK
County Attorney for Fairfax County
You inquired whether a board of supervisors may authorize the
county executive and such other county employees at it deems
appropriate to meet with representatives of employee groups to
discuss matters of mutual interest and to reach a preliminary
agreement to be presented to the board for its consideration. You
also ask whether such discussions are required to be open to the
public under the Freedom of Information Act.
The questions presented by your request are substantially similar
to the questions addressed in my opinion to the Honorable Hunter B.
Andrews, Member, Senate of Virginia, dated February 18, 1970, and
found in Report of the Attorney General
(1969-1970) at 231. In that opinion, I held that school boards
could meet with teacher representatives to discuss matters of mutual
interest and that they could adopt an agreement embodying the points
agreed upon in the discussions. I also noted, however, that the
school boards must retain the right to make the final decision in
such matters and that the boards could not deny the right of
individual teachers to be heard.
What I said in my opinion to Senator Andrews regarding the rights
of school boards applies also to boards of supervisors. Because a
board of supervisors has the authority to meet and to reach an
agreement with employee representatives, it has the authority to
designate certain of its employees as it deems appropriate to meet
with those representatives and to reach a preliminary agreement to be
submitted to the board for consideration. Explicit in this procedure,
of course, is the right of the board to make the final decision.
Furthermore, if, when it is considering the preliminary agreement,
the board affords the employee representatives the right to be heard,
it must also afford that right to individual employees.
The Virginia Freedom of Information Act, §§2.1-341, et
seq., of the Code of Virginia (1950), as amended, requires, with
certain limited exceptions, that meetings of public bodies be open to
the public. The board of supervisors is a public body and any
discussions it may hold with employee representatives would be open
to the public. Because employees of the board are not considered
public bodies under the Act, meetings conducted by employees are not
required by the Act to be open to the public. I am of the opinion,
therefore, that discussions held between employees of the board and
employee representatives are not required to be open to the public.