FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Elsa Brenner, Tim Quinson and The State Line Free Press

 

Complainants

 

against Docket # FIC 86-111

 

First Selectman Charlotte H. Reid, Selectman George Bushnell, and Selectman George Kiefer, all of The Board of Selectmen of the Town of Salisbury

 

Respondents September 24, 1986

 

The above captioned matter was scheduled for hearing May 19, 1986 at which time it was continued to June 19, 1986, when the parties appeared and presented evidence and argument on the complaint.

 

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

 

2. The respondent board moved to dismiss the complaint because the Freedom of Information Commission failed to comply with the time limits required by 1-21i(b), G.S.

 

3. An additional ground asserted in the motion to dismiss was that the Freedom of Information Commission had failed to comply with the notice requirement of 1-21i(b) which requires that the "commission shall serve upon all parties by certified or registered mail, a copy of such notice together with any other notice or order".

 

4. The complaint was filed with the Commission on April 29, 1986.

5. Notice of Hearing and the Order to Show Cause, accompanied by a copy of the complaint, were mailed to the respondent board herein on or about May 7, 1986 by certified mail.

 

6. The respondent board never picked up the envelope which was returned to the Commission on May 24, 1986.

 

Docket # FIC 86-111 page two

 

7. Assuming that the hearing was not held within the time limits required at 1-21i(b), G.S., the complaint was validated when on June 19, 1986, pursuant to P.A. 86-408, the complainants gave notice to the Commission and the respondents that they wished to continue this appeal.

 

8. The motion to dismiss is denied, therefore, because any failure to comply with the time limits has been corrected pursuant to P.A. 86-408, and because notice of the complaint was sent to the respondent board as required by 1-21i(b), G.S.

 

9. On March 31, 1986 a group of architects addressed a gathering of the three members of the respondent board and a group of approximately 20 townspeople regarding plans for a new town hall. The respondent board provided no notice of the gathering.

 

10. The complainants alleged that the March 31, 1986 gathering was a meeting within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S. and that the failure to provide notice of the meeting violated 1-21(a), G.S.

 

11. It is found that decisions regarding the construction of the new town hall are made by the respondent board.

 

12. At the March 31, 1986 gathering, members of the public had the opportunity to address the architects regarding proposals for the new town hall. A previously-held public hearing before the Historic District Commission on the same topic had been unsatisfactory to some townspeople because they felt intimidated by the manner of certain speakers.

 

13. It is found that the March 31, 1986 discussion was organized by the first selectman to allow a limited number of individuals the opportunity to address the architects without competition from more vociferous members of the public.

 

14. The respondent board claims that none of its members participated in the discussion, that its members did not even sit together and that, in fact, the gathering was an assembly of members of the public at which the members of the respondent board were in attendance.

 

Docket # FIC 86-111 page three

 

15. It if found, however, that the March 31, 1986 gathering permitted the respondents to gain information for their use in the making of decisions regarding the new town hall.

 

16. It is concluded that the March 31, 1986 gathering of the respondent board, members of the public and architects to discuss the construction of a new town hall was communication to a quorum of a multimember public agency, in person, to discuss a matter over which the public agency has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power and that such a gathering was, therefore, a meeting within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S.

 

17. It is further concluded that the respondent board violated 1-21(a), G.S. when it failed to provide public notice of the March 31, 1986 gathering.

 

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

 

1. The respondent board shall henceforth act in strict compliance with the requirements of 1-21(a), G.S. regarding the public's right to access to meetings of public agencies.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of September 24, 1986.

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission