FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

David W. Reynolds and Barbara Tamsin,

 

Complainants

 

against Docket #FIC 86-192

 

City of Torrington Industrial Development Commission,

 

Respondent November 18, 1986

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on August 7, 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. On June 19, 1986 the respondent provided the town clerk, for posting, notice of a special meeting to be held June 24, 1986 at 7:30 p.m. for the business of "minutes," "land acquisition" and "land disposition."

 

3. On June 20, 1986 the respondent provided the town clerk, for posting, a notice of special meeting changing the June 24, 1986 meeting time from 7:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

 

4. On June 24, 1986 the respondent opened a special meeting at 7:20 p.m., following which it convened in executive session for the purpose of "Land Acquisition" and "Land Disposition." Upon reconvening in public session the respondent voted to have the city attorney "prepare 60 day option . . . on lot #10 in the Industrial Park at a price of $13,000 per acre and that within the 60 days, a rendering of the proposed building site location be presented to the [planning & zoning] Commission."

 

5. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on July 7, 1986 the complainants alleged as follows:

 

a) That the complainants missed the start of the meeting because the change in meeting time from 7:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. was never published in the local

 

Docket #FIC 86-192 Page Two

 

paper, nor was the change noted on a summary listing of all meetings for the week posted in the City Clerk's office.

 

b) That the respondent did not discuss land acquisition while convened in executive session, but instead met with its attorney to discuss the status of a controversial industrial park plan which was at the time being considered by the planning and zoning commission [P&ZC].

 

6. Attorney Peter Herbst, hired by the respondent as special counsel to present requests to the P&ZC for approval of the industrial park project plan and of a zone change from residential to industrial, met with the respondent for the first time in the June 24, 1986 executive session.

 

7. As of June 24, 1986 the respondent had not yet acquired the property for the proposed industrial park project.

 

8. The respondent claims that the executive session was proper pursuant to 1-18a(e)(1), G.S., to discuss the scope of Attorney Herbst's employment and that the discussion was protected by the attorney-client privilege.

 

9. The respondent also claims that it discussed the issue of acquiring property, including the timing of various options, and that such discussion, if held in public, would have affected the price of the property because the proposed zone change would increase its value.

 

10. It is found that Attorney Herbst, as special counsel to the respondent, is an independent contractor, not a public officer or employee within the meaning of 1-18a(e)(1), G.S. and that discussion of Attorney Herbst's duties was not a proper purpose for an executive session within the meaning of 1-18a(e)(1), G.S.

 

11. It is also found that failure to announce discussion of Attorney Herbst's duties as a purpose of the June 24, 1986 executive session violated 1-21(a), G.S.

 

12. The respondent failed to prove that discussions which it characterized as protected by the attorney-client privilege constituted a proper purpose for an executive session within the meaning of 1-18a(e), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 86-192 Page Three

 

13. It is found that the purchase of property for the industrial park was contingent on, among other factors, the obtaining of a zone change and on the approval of the industrial park plan by the P&ZC.

 

14. It is found that to the extent that discussion in the June 24, 1986 executive session was of the selection of a site or the lease, sale or purchase of real estate for the proposed industrial park, publicity regarding which would cause a likelihood of increased price, such discussion was a proper purpose for an executive session within the meaning of 1-18a(e)(4), G.S.

 

15. It is concluded that except to the extent that the June 24, 1986 discussion related to a proper purpose for an executive session, as described at paragraph 14, above, the failure to provide public access to such discussion violated 1-21(a), G.S.

 

16. It is found that the special meeting notice provided by the respondent for its June 24, 1986 meeting did not violate 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 respondent shall forthwith provide each of its members with a copy of the final decision in this matter and shall make such decision an agenda item for discussion at its next regular meeting following the issuance of the final decision.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of November 18, 1986.

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission