In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION


John D. Kotch and Newtown Police Union Local No. 3153,


Complainants, Docket #FIC 86-238




Board of Selectmen of the Town of Newtown,


Respondent December 10, 1986


The above captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 25, 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 August 4, 1986, the respondent held a meeting, during which it convened an executive session for the stated purpose of discussing "the Officer Froehlich matter."


3. By letter of complaint dated August 21, 1986, and filed with the Commission on August 25, 1986, the complainants alleged that the executive session on August 4, 1986, was for the purpose of discussing a personnel matter under 1-18a(e)(1), G.S., which is subject to an employee's right to request an open meeting.


4. The complainants also appealed to the Commission under 1-21, G.S., which requires public agencies to state publicly and in their minutes the purpose of an executive session.


5. The respondent claims the purpose of the executive session was, among other things, to discuss the strategy and negotiations of pending claims concerning Officer Froehlich, a member of the Newtown Police Department.


Docket #86-238 page 2


6. The respondent also claims the complainants have no standing to appeal to the Commission under 1-18a(e)(1), G.S., because they do not represent Officer Froehlich in this matter.


7. It is found that the respondent convened an executive session to talk about strategy and negotiations of pending claims, as defined by 1-18a(e)(2), G.S.


8. It is concluded, therefore, that the executive session held on August 4, 1986, was convened for a proper purpose under 1-18a(e)(2), G.S.


9. It is found, however, that despite the respondent's attempt to accurately state the reason for the executive session, it failed to do so adequately, which caused the confusion that led to this complaint.


10. It is concluded, therefore, that the respondent has violated 1-21(a), G.S., by not stating the reason for the executive session in a way that would be understood by the public as the actual purpose intended.


11. In light of this conclusion, it is not necessary to reach the respondent's claim of lack of standing under 1-18a(e)(1), 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 henceforth shall act in strict compliance with the terms of 1-21(a), G.S.


2. The Commission emphasizes that the purpose of executive sessions must be stated clearly, so as to give the public actual notice of the reason for the session.


3. The respondents forthwith shall provide each of its members with a copy of the final decision in this matter.


Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of December 10, 1986.


Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission