FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Zeke MacCormack and The Evening Sentinel,

 

Complainants

 

against Docket #FIC 86-76

 

Mayor and Senior Citizens' Commission of the City and Town of Shelton,

 

Respondents April 23, 1986

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 7, 1986, at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.

 

After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found:

 

1. The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. On March 11, 1986 the five members of the respondent commission met in the mayor's office with the respondent mayor, the director of the Shelton senior center and four of the center's officers.

 

3. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on March 19, 1986 the complainants alleged that the gathering of the five members of the respondent commission, for which no notice was provided, violated the Freedom of Information Act. The complainant MacCormack claimed that while so gathered the members of the respondent commission discussed whether to allow reporters to attend their monthly meetings.

 

4. It is found that upon attempting to attend the March 11, 1986 gathering the complainant MacCormack was denied access by the respondent mayor's secretary, who stated that the gathering was an "appointment," not a meeting.

 

5.     The respondents claim that the purpose of the gathering was to allow those present to resolve disputes involving the role of the director of the senior center and that the gathering was in the nature of a meeting of the mayor with his

 

Docket #FIC 86-76 Page Two

 

constituents, not a meeting of a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S. Also raised at the gathering was the issue of whether the $1.00 annual dues paid by the 3,000 members of the center should be doubled. The issue of reporters' attendance at meetings of the respondent commission was not a topic of discussion.

 

6. It is found that the respondent commission's discussion of disputes involving the administration of the senior center and of dues to be paid by members of the center constituted a discussion of matters over which the respondent commission has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power.

 

7. It is concluded that although the respondents' actions were undertaken in good faith, the March 11, 1986 gathering of the respondent commission was a "meeting" within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S. and that the failure to provide notice of such meeting violated 1-21(a), G.S.

 

8. It is found that to the extent that the March 11, 1986 discussion concerned the appointment, employment, performance, evaluation, health or dismissal of a public officer or employee, such discussion may have been a proper purpose for an executive session within the meaning of 1-18a(e), G.S.

 

9. However, the respondent commission failed to comply with the requirements of 1-18a(e) and 1-21(a), G.S. regarding the convening of an executive session. It is concluded that the respondent commission's failure to provide public access to its March 11, 1986 meeting violated 1-21(a), G.S.

 

10. At hearing the complainant requested the imposition of a civil penalty, which request is hereby denied.

 

The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint.

 

1. The respondent commission shall henceforth act in strict compliance with the requirements of 1-21(a), G.S. regarding public notice of and access to its meetings.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of April 23, 1986.

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission