FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Robert S. Molnar and the Naugatuck Daily News,

 

Complainants

 

against Docket #FIC 86-94

 

Fire Commission of the Borough of Naugatuck,

 

Respondent May 14, 1986

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 25, 1986, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.

 

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

 

1. The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on April 4, 1986 the complainants alleged as follows regarding meetings of the respondent held on March 5, 1986, March 13, 1986 and March 20, 1986:

 

a) That according to the chairman of the respondent, the respondent convened in executive session at its March 5, 1986 regular meeting and "did nothing but shoot the breeze," in violation of 1-18a(e), G.S.;

 

b) That the minutes of the respondent's March 5, 1986 meeting do not fully detail the reasons for convening in executive session;

 

c) That the respondent failed to file an agenda for the March 5, 1986 meeting in the office of the secretary of the respondent or in the borough clerk's office, in violation of 1-21, G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 86-94 Page Two

 

d) That the notices of March 13, 1986 and March 20, 1986 special meetings did not indicate what business would be transacted at such meetings;

 

e) That as of April 4, 1986 no minutes of the March 13, 1986 or March 20, 1986 meetings had been made available by the respondent.

 

f) That at its March 13, 1986 and March 20, 1986 special meetings the respondent convened in executive session to discuss "personnel classifications," in violation of 1-18a(e), G.S.

 

g) That the respondent records its meetings with a tape recorder but that such tapes are erased after the minutes have been prepared, in violation of 1-21k, G.S.

 

3. It is found that on March 5, 1986, March 13, 1986 and March 20, 1986 the respondent convened in executive session to discuss "job classifications." The respondent claims that because the bargaining agreement under which it operates defines "job classification" as a negotiable item the executive sessions were properly convened to discuss strategy and negotiations with respect to collective bargaining.

 

4. It is found that to the extent that discussion of job classification constituted strategy and negotiations with respect to collective bargaining, such discussion did not constitute a "meeting" as defined by 1-18a(b), G.S.

 

5. It is found, however, that the only proper purposes for an executive session are those five listed at 1-18a(e), G.S. and that the convening of executive sessions for the purpose of discussing strategy and negotiations with respect to collective bargaining, which is not one of the five proper purposes, constituted a technical violation of 1-21(a) and 1-18a(e), G.S.

 

6. It is also found that the minutes of the respondent's March 5, 1986 meeting record the purpose of the executive session as "personnel reasons" which does not sufficiently identify the purpose of the session, in violation of 1-21(a), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 86-94 Page Three

 

7. It is found that in January, 1986 Louis Grella, a member of the respondent, prepared an agenda for the regular meetings of the respondent, which agenda is on file in the office of the fire chief. The office of the fire chief is used by the respondent as its regular office or place of business.

 

8. The agenda prepared by Mr. Grella contains standard items such as "fire chief's report," "fire marshal's report," "superintendent of fire alarms's report," "old business" and "new business." The respondent claims that because the order of business of the respondent does not change from month to month it does not need to prepare a new agenda for each meeting.

 

9. It is concluded that an agenda for the respondent's March 5, 1986 regular meeting was on file and available for public inspection more than 24 hours in advance of such meeting within the meaning of 1-21(a), G.S. The Commission notes that every public agency considers certain recurring agenda items and that the predictability of some of the items to be considered does not permit an agency to create an agenda which is so broad as to be meaningless. To the extent that an agency knows in advance of each meeting what business will be transacted, the public's interests would best be served by inclusion of such information in a detailed, informative agenda.

 

10. It is found that the respondent noted on a calendar in the borough clerk's office that meetings would be held on March 13, 1986 and March 20, 1986. The respondent, however, did not include in such notice any indication of what business would be considered at the meetings, in violation of 1-21(a), G.S.

 

11. It is also found that the respondent failed to make minutes of its March 13, 1986 and March 20, 1986 meetings available for public inspection within seven days, excluding weekends and holidays, in violation of 1-21(a), G.S. Minutes of such meetings had been made available as of the date of hearing.

 

12. It is found that the minutes of the respondent's meetings are prepared by Marsha Harris, the secretary to the fire chief. Ms. Harris tape records the meetings at her own initiative, solely as an aid in the preparation of the minutes. After the minutes have been prepared the tape recordings are erased.

 

13. It is found that the tape recordings in question are not prepared, owned, used, received or retained by the respondent within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 86-94 Page Four

 

14. It is concluded that the tape recordings are not public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d) or 1-21k, G.S. and that the respondent's failure to make a tape recording of its February 10, 1986 meeting available to the complainant did not violate 1-19(a), G.S.

 

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

 

1. The respondent shall henceforth convene in executive session only for one or more of the proper purposes listed at 1-18a(e), G.S. and only after first specifically identifying such proper purpose. The respondent shall also cause the stated purpose of each executive session to be recorded in the minutes of its meetings.

 

2. The respondent shall henceforth make the minutes of its meetings available for public inspection within seven days of the meetings to which they refer, as required by 1-21(a), G.S.

 

3. The respondent shall henceforth place on file in the office of the borough clerk notices of special meetings which specify the time and place of the special meeting and the business to be transacted.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of May 14, 1986.

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission