Attorney General's Opinion 1985-86 #333A
VIRGINIA FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT. OPEN MEETING REQUIREMENTS.
LOCAL GOVERNING BODY MAY NOT VOTE BY SECRET BALLOT.
July 3, 1985
The Honorable R. Beasley Jones
Member, House of Delegates
You ask whether a city council violated the Virginia Freedom of
Information Act, §§2.1-340 through 2.1-346.1 of the Code of
Virginia (the "Act"), by voting on the membership of the city
planning and zoning commission by secret ballot. The letter enclosed
with your request states that during a June meeting of council, three
persons were nominated to fill two vacancies on the commission. The
council's vote, however, was by secret ballot. After the vote, the
clerk counted the ballots and the winners were announced.
The Act requires that all meetings of public bodies shall be
public meetings, unless otherwise specifically provided for by law.
Section 2.1-343 . Meetings of municipal councils are brought
expressly within the purview of the Act. Section 2.1-341(a).
Prior Opinions of this Office have consistently found that secret
ballot voting by members of a public body constitutes a violation of
the open meeting requirements of the Act. See Reports of the Attorney
at 723; 1977-1978
at 492; 1974-1975
Accordingly, in accordance with this long-standing interpretation,
it is my opinion that the council violated the Act by voting on the
commission membership by secret ballot.
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