In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION


Maureen McDonald and The Norwich Bulletin,




against Docket #FIC 86-166


Democratic Members of Norwich City Council,


Respondents September 23, 1986


The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 14, 1986, at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.


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


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


2. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on June 6, 1986 the complainants alleged that the respondents held caucuses on May 6, 1986 and on June 2, 1986 to which the complainant McDonald had been improperly denied access.


3. It is found that the complaint in this matter was filed more than 30 days after May 6, 1986. Pursuant to 1-21i(b), G.S., this Commission lacks jurisdiction over the complaint to the extent that it contains allegations regarding the May 6, 1986 gathering.


4. On June 2, 1986 the respondents held a gathering, which they termed a "caucus," to which the complainant McDonald was denied access on the ground that personnel matters would be discussed. At such gathering the respondents discussed the choice of an acting city manager and of a preferred developer for the Norwich marina. Both matters were scheduled for discussion by the city council that evening.


5. It is the practice of the respondents to hold caucuses prior to scheduled meetings of the city council and to open such caucuses to the press but not to the public.


Docket #FIC 86-166 Page Two


6. The complainants claim that the respondents' discussion of the choice of a developer was followed by an informal poll and that such discussion and poll were matters to which the public should have had access.


7. It is found that the June 2, 1986 gathering, attended only by the respondents, was called to elicit opinions of the Democratic members of the city council on issues scheduled for a full discussion by the entire city council.


8. It is concluded that the June 2, 1986 gathering was a "caucus" within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S., not a "meeting," and that the respondents' exclusion of the complainant McDonald did not violate any provision of the Freedom of Information Act.


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


1. The complaint is hereby dismissed.


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


Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission