In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION


Henry E. Buermeyer,




against Docket #FIC 86 - 139


Mayor, City Counsel and City Attorney of the City of Groton,


Respondents July 23, 1986


The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 6, 1986, at which time the complainant 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 April 21, 1986 the respondents mayor and council held a meeting during which they convened in executive session for the announced purposes of discussing the retirement of deputy police chief Nicholas DeNoia and the purchase of property.


3. At a May 5, 1986 meeting the respondents mayor and council, upon motion of a member of the respondent council, voted to amend the minutes of the April 21, 1986 meeting to add "Freeman Meetings; Petitions" to the notation of matters discussed during the April 21, 1986 executive session.


4. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on May 21, 1986 the complainant alleged that the discussion of "Freeman Meetings; Petitions" was not a proper purpose for an executive session within the meaning of 1-18a(e), G.S. and that it exceeded the scope of the announced purpose of the executive session, in violation of 1-21(a), G.S. The complainant also requested that the Commission consider the imposition of civil penalties against the respondents.


5.     It is found that during the citizens' petitions portion of the April 21, 1986 meeting a member of the public raised a question regarding an upcoming sewer outfall meeting. While convened in executive session a member of the respondent council


Docket #FIC 86-139 Page Two


asked whether the respondent council would have the opportunity to meet with special counsel for the sewer outfall matter prior to such meeting. The respondent city attorney responded that it would not be possible, and directed the discussion back to the announced purposes of the executive session.


6. As acknowledged by the respondents, discussion of the sewer outfall meeting was not one of the announced purposes of the executive session and to such extent, the discussion violated 1-21(a), G.S.


7. The respondents claim, however, that although not an announced purpose for the executive session, the council member's question regarding the sewer outfall meeting was a proper purpose for an executive session within the meaning of 1-18a(e)(2), G.S.


8. It is found that the brief discussion regarding the sewer outfall matter, as described by the respondents, did not amount to strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims and litigation within the meaning of 1-18a(e)(2), G.S. and that such discussion, technically, violated 1-21(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 respondents mayor and council 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 announcing such proper purpose.


Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of July 23, 1986.


Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission