Attorney General's Opinion 1975-76 #411

November 5, 1975

Member, Senate of Virginia

75-76 411

This is in response to your recent letter in which you ask whether a recent gathering of six members of the Virginia Beach City Council was in violation of the Freedom of Information Act. Your letter indicates that the Council members met, at approximately 11:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 21, 1975, with the City Manager, a representative of the Commonwealth Attorney's Office and several citizens, at the home of a Council member. You further indicate that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss recently publicized allegations that the City Police Department maintained secret files on certain local businessmen. It is my understanding that no minutes of the meeting were recorded, and that certain individuals and organizations which had previously requested notice of each meeting of Council were not notified of the meeting in question.

Section 2.1-343, Code of Virginia (1950), as amended, provides: "Except as otherwise specifically provided by law and except as provided in §§2.1-344 and 2.1-345, all meetings shall be public meetings. Minutes shall be recorded at all 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." (Emphasis added.)

"Meeting" is defined in §2.1-341(a) to include any gathering of the membership of any governmental body, whether formal or informal, at which matters relating to the official function of the governmental body are discussed. The gathering of the members of Council for the foregoing purpose clearly constituted a "meeting" within the meaning of §2.1-341(a) and, therefore, had to be held in compliance with the requirements of §2.1-343. See Report of the Attorney General (1973-1974) at 453. Inasmuch as no minutes of such meeting were kept and those individuals and organizations having previously requested notice of each Council meeting were not so notified, I am of the opinion that the meeting violated the provisions of §2.1-343.