December 12, 2000
Ms. Nancy Lamb
The staff of the Freedom of Information Advisory Council
is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff
advisory opinion is based solely upon the information presented
in your e-mail of November 9, 2000.
Dear Ms. Lamb:
Thank you for contacting the Virginia Freedom of Information
Advisory Council. I apologize for not being able to respond
in time for the meeting in question. This small office receives
a volume of complaints via phone, letter and computer, and
conducted numerous educational sessions out of the office
in the beginning of November. Nonetheless, I hope that this
response will provide guidance and assistance if similar questions
and circumstances arise at future meetings.
As a member of a town council, you have inquired about the
notice requirements of the Virginia Freedom of Information
Act (FOIA). Specifically, you indicate that a meeting was
called with only one working day's notice to discuss a decision
to cash a certificate of deposit made at a recent regularly
scheduled town council meeting, and to consider taking out
a bank loan instead.
Ordinarily, FOIA requires notice of at least three working
days for a meeting of a public body. However, subsection D
of § 2.1-343 provides different notice provisions for special
or emergency meetings. This meeting does not appear to be
an emergency, which FOIA defines as an unforeseen circumstance
rendering the notice required by this chapter impossible or
impracticable and which circumstances require immediate action.
Nothing in the facts indicates that the decision to take out
a loan required immediate action. No definition is offered
for a special meeting. Logically, a special meeting would
be a gathering other than a regular meeting or an emergency
meeting. Because you indicate that the meeting in question
was called only to reconsider an item from a recent regular
meeting, it appears to be a special meeting.
Subsection D of § 2.1-343 requires that notice for special
meetings only be reasonable under the circumstances,
and be given contemporaneously with the notice provided to
the members of the public body. The question of whether or
not it was reasonable to call this special meeting with only
one working day's notice is a question for the courts, and
not for this office. Assuming that the notice was reasonable
under the circumstances, the facts indicate that the public
was notified contemporaneously by posting a notice at the
town hall, also assuming that this is the location where notices
for town council meetings are normally posted.
Should a similar situation arise again in the future, this
office would not necessarily recommend refusing to attend.
A better solution might be to attend, but let your concerns
be heard on the record in the minutes of the meeting.
Again, thank you for contacting this office. I hope that
I have been of assistance.
Maria J.K. Everett