FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Steven A. Anderson, Karen Armour, Edward P. Daniels, Jr., Lynn Hamlen and Charles Raymond,

 

Complainants

 

against Docket #FIC 86-180

 

Darien Board of Ethics,

 

Respondent October 8, 1986

 

The above captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 29, 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 June 19, 1986 the complainants alleged that the respondent convened improperly in executive session during its May 14, 1986 and May 21, 1986 meetings. The second portion of the complainants' appeal requests that the Commission review the respondent's rules and regulations for compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.

 

3. With respect to the complainants' request that the Commission review the respondent's rules and regulations, it is found that a contested case is not the proper forum to make such a determination and will therefore not be treated here.

 

4. It is found that the respondent convened in executive session during its May 14, 1986 meeting for the stated purpose of reviewing correspondence sent by one Charles Raymond to determine if his question fell within its jurisdiction.

 

Docket #FIC 86-180 Page 2

 

5. The respondent claims this was a permissible purpose within the meaning of 1-18a(e)(1), G.S.

 

6. It is further found that while convened in executive session, the respondent did not discuss Mr. Raymond's request, but instead discussed and voted to send a letter to Mr. DeSelding in response to questions posed by him to the respondent.

 

7. It is found that the respondent failed to convene in executive session for a permissible purpose within the meaning of 1-18a(e)(1), G.S.

 

8. It is further found that the respondent voted while convened in executive session in violation of 1-21, G.S.

 

9. It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-21, G.S., when it convened in executive session during its May 14, 1986 meeting for an improper purpose and voted in executive session regarding the improper matter.

 

10. It is found that the respondent conducted a special meeting on May 21, 1986.

 

11. It is found that the respondent convened in executive sesssion at its May 21, 1986 meeting for the stated purpose of deliberating over a letter sent to it by one Charles Raymond.

 

12. It is further found that while convened in executive session the respondent discussed and voted to send a letter to Charles Raymond regarding various questions posed by him to the respondent.

 

13. It is found that the respondent failed to convene in executive session at its May 21, 1986 meeting for a permissible purpose within the meaning of 1-18a(e)(1), G.S.

 

14. It is found that the respondent voted while convened in executive session in violation of 1-21, G.S.

 

15. It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-21, G.S., when it convened in executive session during it May 21, 1986 special meeting for an improper purpose and voted in executive session regarding the improper matter.

 

16. The Commission finds unpersuasive the respondent's argument that it was proper to convene in executive session because of the attendance of the press which allegedly takes many things out of context.

 

Docket #FIC 86-180 Page 3

 

17. It is found that the presence of the press does not justify the respondent's closed meetings or excuse it from complying with the open meetings requirements of 1-21, G.S.

 

18. The Commission notes that under the facts of this case, it would serve no useful purpose to declare actions taken at either the May 14, 1986 or May 21, 1986 meetings null and void.

 

19. The Commission also notes, however, that the respondent violated numerous provisions of the Freedom of Information Act which indicates a clear lack of knowledge on its part concerning the requirements of the Act.

 

20. As a public agency, the respondent has a responsibility and obligation to become knowledgeable with the requirements 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 respondent shall henceforth act in strict compliance with 1-21, G.S.

 

2. The respondent shall forthwith provide the complainants with a copy of the letters identified in paragraghs 6 and 12 of the findings, above.

 

3. Each member of the respondent shall, within two weeks of the final decision in this matter, read and study the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, 1-15, 1-18a, 1-19 to 1-19c, inclusive and 1-20 to 1-21k, inclusive, G.S., and shall, at the end of such two weeks, provide the Commission with an affidavit stating that the member is familiar with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.

 

4. The respondent shall provide a copy of this report to the town clerk for posting in the same manner as a notice of special meeting is posted pursuant to 1-21(a), G.S. Such report shall remain posted for a period of three weeks.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of October 8, 1986.

 

Catherine I. Hostetter

Acting Clerk of the Commission