FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Dale W. Radcliffe,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 86-305

 

Frank Farina, Alexander Tenay, Ernest Reho, Frederick Bietsch, Irwin Nabel, Frank Kochiss, Dan Johnson and the Trumbull Zoning Board of Appeals,

 

Respondents January 14, 1987

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 2, 1986 at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts 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. By letter of complaint dated November 6, 1986 and filed with the Commission on November 10, 1986, the complainant alleged that the respondent board wrongfully denied the public the right to attend a portion of its November 5, 1986 meeting in violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

 

3. Specifically, the complainant claims that the respondents violated 1-18a(e) and 1-21(a), G.S., in that:

 

a. No public vote was taken by the respondent board to convene in executive session;

 

b. No proper purpose to convene in executive session was stated publicly; and

 

c. The respondent board improperly voted on agenda matters in executive session.

 

4. The complainant requests that the Commission declare all actions taken by the respondent board at its November 5, 1986 meeting null and void and impose a civil penalty on each of its members present at that meeting.

 

 

Docket #FIC 86-305 Page 2

 

 

5. The respondent board claims that:

 

a. It convened in executive session to discuss certain matters with its attorney;

 

b. It believed that the executive session was proper since the board acts as a judicial body and therefore is not subject to the open meetings provisions of the Freedom of Information Act; and

 

c. It held the executive session to contemplate strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims pursuant to 1-18a(e)(2), G.S.

 

6. It is found that the respondent board held a meeting on November 5, 1986 at which it convened in executive session.

 

7. It also is found that the respondent board publicly voted to convene in executive session at its November 5, 1986 meeting.

 

8. It also is found that the stated reason for conducting the executive session was that the public might misinterpret information pertinent to making decisions on applications.

 

9. It also is found that the respondent board voted on applications while in executive session.

 

10. It also is found that the respondent board's attorney left the meeting prior to the executive session.

 

11. It also is found that the respondent board is not a judicial branch agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S., and is therefore subject to the open meetings provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

 

12. It also is found that the respondent board did not consider in executive session strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims to which it, or any of its members, is a party within the meaning of 1-18a(e)(2), G.S.

 

13. It therefore is concluded that the November 5, 1986 executive session was convened without a proper purpose, in violation of 1-21(a), G.S.

 

14. It also is concluded that the respondent board impermissibly voted on agenda matters in executive session, in violation of 1-18a(e) and 1-21(a), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 86-305 Page 3

 

15. It further is concluded that the violations set forth in paragraphs 14 and 15, above, were made without reasonable grounds within the meaning of 1-21i(b), G.S.

 

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

 

1. Henceforth, the respondents shall act in strict compliance with the requirements of 1-18a(e) and 1-21(a), G.S.

 

2. A civil penalty of $25 is hereby imposed on each of the following members of the respondent board: Frank Farina; Frederick Bietsch; Alexander Tenay; and Frank Kochiss.

 

3. The Commission commends the efforts of the Town of Trumbull in educating its officials on freedom of information laws.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of January 14, 1987

 

Catherine I. Hostetter

Acting Clerk of the Commission