In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION


Domenico Pane,




against Docket #FIC 87-29


Town Planning and Zoning Commission of the Town of Newington,


Respondent June 24, 1987


The above-captioned case was scheduled for hearing April 9, 1987, at which time the parties appeared and presented evidence and argument on the complaint. This matter was consolidated for hearing with #FIC 87-30 because of the similarity of the subject matter.


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 dated February 5, 1987, the complainant alleged that an afternoon gathering of the Republican members of the Newington Planning and Zoning Commission on January 28, 1987, was an illegal meeting at which the persons present voted to approve Application 1099-66, which was pending before the respondent.


3. The respondent claimed that the gathering was not illegal, but rather it was for developing motions and scheduling for the regular meeting held the evening of January 28, 1987.


4. The respondent further requested that a civil penalty be imposed upon the complainant.


5. The respondent moved to dismiss the complaint because the notice of hearing and the accompanying documents failed to state the particular sections of the statute and regulations involved; and further because the notice failed to provide a short and plain statement of the matters asserted.


Docket # FIC 87-29 page two


6. The respondent also moved to require a more specific statement of the violation alleged by the complainant.


7. Both motions were denied by the hearing officer on the ground that the statement of the legal issues and the facts alleged were sufficient to put the respondent on notice of the matters which are at issue in the hearing.


8. The gathering was a meeting of the planning sub-committee of the respondent.


9. The planning sub-committee is a committee of the respondent.


10. On January 28, 1987, the planning sub-committee reviewed the business of the regular meeting of January 28, 1987, and prepared motions for the consideration of the respondent at the regular meeting.


11. A quorum of the planning sub-committee was present.


12. It is found that the planning sub-committee is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.


13. It is found that the planning sub-committee discussed matters over which it had control and jurisdiction at the afternoon of January 28, 1987 gathering, and that therefore, the gathering was a meeting within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S.


14. It is found that at different times during the meeting of the planning sub-committee, Republican members of the respondent appeared in the room and conversed with the two members of the planning committee who were present.


15. One member submitted her resignation, another came in to review documents concerning one of the projects which was up for consideration at the meeting, another who was passing through town hall came to the door and observed the proceedings.


16. It is found that while the presence of these individuals at a meeting of the planning sub-committee at various times did not constitute a meeting of the respondent within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S., it may have created the appearance of impropriety.


Docket # FIC 87-29 page three


17. It is found that under the circumstances of this case, the imposition of a civil penalty is not appropriate.


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


1. The portion of the complaint which alleges that the afternoon meeting of the sub-committee was a meeting of a quorum of the respondent at which business was transacted is dismissed.


2. Although the legality of the conduct of the planning sub-committee was not an issue in this complaint, the Commission urges the respondent to conduct the meetings of its planning sub-committee in accordance with the requirements of 1-21, G.S., with proper notice, minutes and public access.


Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 24, 1987.




Catherine I. Hostetter

Acting Clerk of the Commission