The Connecticut General Assembly
OFFICE OF LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH
December 9, 1994 94-R-0998
FROM: Mary M. Janicki, Principal Analyst
RE: Open Meeting Law
You want to know whether a board of education can discuss a teacher's job performance or a personnel matter involving a teacher at a board meeting without notifying the subject. You want to know if the teacher can be present at such a meeting, be heard, or have legal representation present.
You also want to know what happens when a matter that is discussed during an executive session is disclosed by a member of a public agency.
A board of education need not give prior notice to a teacher when it plans to discuss his or her performance or any personnel matter at an open meeting. But it must provide prior notice if it intends to bring up such a matter in an executive session, because the subject has the right to require that the board's discussion be held in an open, rather than closed meeting. An employee has no rights to be heard or represented at any board meeting, but nothing prohibits the board from opening its meeting to comment from a nonmember.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) does not prohibit or in any way restrict a participant in an executive session from disclosing the subjects discussed at such a meeting, what was said, or the contents of a record or document under discussion. The subject of any disclosure has no recourse under the Act if such information is divulged. But other laws that require confidentiality for certain matters include sanctions for disclosure of such information and those provisions would apply if the disclosure came through the revelation of what had been said at an agency's closed meeting.
PARTICIPATION AT MEETINGS
With respect to a board's regular open meetings, agendas must be available to the public at least 24 hours in advance. Nothing can be added to an agenda unless at least two-thirds of the members present and voting at a meeting agree to do so. Notice of a special meeting of an agency must be posted 24 hours in advance and must describe the business to be transacted. Anyone can be present at an open meeting, but observers need not be recognized.
When an agency goes into executive session, that is a meeting at which the public is excluded for statutorily specified reasons, it must give notice to the subject of a discussion concerning "the appointment, employment, performance, evaluation, health or dismissal" of an employee (CGS §. 1-18a(e)), because the employee can require that the discussion be held at an open meeting instead.
A board is not required to go into executive session unless it is discussing a record that cannot be disclosed pursuant to a law outside the FOIA. The Act allows an agency discretion in what it determines is exempt from disclosure; but other provisions of the law supersede the FOIA and specifically prohibit disclosure of certain records or information.
DISCLOSURE OF DISCUSSION AT A CLOSED MEETING
Even though board members decide to convene in executive session, nothing in the FOIA requires that they keep their discussion confidential. Only if they disclose information or details of a matter that other laws require be kept confidential, like certain tax information or AIDS testing results, could they be subject to sanctions that are imposed by provisions of the law outside the scope of the FOIA.