FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-04-00


October 3, 2000

John Blandin
Sent Via E-Mail

Dear Mr. Blandin:

You ask whether a gathering of three members of the Norfolk Wetlands Board to tour a site for which a dredging permit application had been filed with the Board is a "meeting" under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Section 2.1-341 defines a "meeting" as "the meetings including work sessions, when sitting physically, or through telephonic or video equipment pursuant to § 2.1-343.1, as a body or entity, or as an informal assemblage of (i) as many as three members or (ii) a quorum, if less than three, of the constituent membership, wherever held, with or without minutes being taken, whether or not votes are cast, of any public body. The gathering of employees of a public body shall not be deemed a "meeting" subject to the provisions of this chapter." (Emphasis added)

FOIA does allow, however, the gathering or attendance of two or more members of a public body (i) at any place or function where no part of the purpose of such gathering or attendance is the discussion or transaction of any public business, and such gathering or attendance was not called or prearranged with any purpose of discussing or transacting any business of the public body. (Section 2.1-343 G). Touring a site for which a permit application is pending before the Board necessarily involves the discussion or transaction of public business.

FOIA is clear on its face. The informal assemblage of three members of a public body to discuss or transact public business constitutes a "meeting" under FOIA. As a result, public notice and access are required.

Thank you for contacting this office. I hope that I have been of assistance.