Attorney General's Opinion 1974-75 #582


April 21, 1975

Member, House of Delegates

74-75 582

This will acknowledge receipt of your recent letter wherein you inquire:

I would appreciate your advising as to whether under the Freedom of Information Act a local governing body such as a board of supervisors or city council and/or local school board can go into closed Executive Session to discuss the proposed school budget on the basis that overall salary scales of employees shall be discussed.

Section 2.1-343, Code of Virginia as amended requires that all meetings of public bodies be open or public meetings:

Except as otherwise specifially provided by law and except as provided in §§2.1-344 and 2.1-345 all meetings shall be public meetings. Information as to the time and place of each meeting shall be furnished to any citizen of this State who requests such information.

I find no authority for executive or closed meetings to discuss a school board budget in §§2.1-344, 2.1-345, or in any other provision of law. If, however, during the discussion of a school board budget a matter arises with respect to which §2.1-344 authorizes deliberation in executive session, then consideration of that specific item may take place in a closed meeting.

You inquire specifically whether overall salary levels of public employees, not related to the salary of any particular employee, may be the subject of an executive or closed meeting. Section 2.1-344(a)(1) authorizes such meetings of public bodies for the purpose of:

"(1) Discussion or consideration of employment, assignment, appointment, promotion, demotion, salaries, disciplining or resignation of public officers, appointees or employees of any public body."

The confidentiality permitted by §2.1-344(a)(1) as to discussions of public employee salaries and related matters is intended to protect the privacy of individual employees. Discussion of overall salary levels of public employees would not require the same confidentiality as would be required for discussion of individual employment status or salary. I am of the opinion, therefore, that executive discussion by governmental bodies of overall salary levels of public employees is not authorized by §2.1-344(a)(1) and that such deliberations are required to be held in a public or open meeting.