In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION


Henry E. Buermeyer,




against Docket #FIC 87-112


Mayor and City Council of the City of Groton,


Respondents July 8, 1987


The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 2, 1987, 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. On April 2, 1987, the complainant requested in person a copy of the minutes of the March 23, 1987, regular meeting of the City of Groton's Committee of the Whole. No minutes were available.


3. On April 6, 1987, the complainant received a copy of the minutes by mail.


4. The complainant appealed to the Commission by letter dated April 13, 1987, and filed with the Commission on April 14, 1987, alleging a violation of the 1-21(a), G.S., requirement that minutes be available for public inspection within seven days. The complainant also alleged that at the meeting the respondents discussed an item not on the agenda, they did not vote to take up the item as new business, and the minutes did not mention the item.


5. The respondents claim the minutes were unavailable due to an oversight and were mailed to the complainant as quickly as possible once he brought it to their attention. The respondents further claim no one was trying to hide anything and the non-agenda item did not need to be in the minutes because it was a presentation, not an action of the committee.


6. It is found that the respondent council and the respondent mayor together form the Committee of the Whole.


Docket #FIC 87-112 Page Two


7. It is found that the mayor had written down the minutes, but due to an oversight did not give them to her assistant to type, so they were not available to the public within seven days.


8. Although the Commission recognizes the unusual pressures on the mayor in the relevant time period, it concludes that the respondents violated 1-21(a), G.S., by not making minutes available to the public within seven days.


9. It also is found that at the meeting in question the city attorney made a presentation to the respondents about indemnification in a lawsuit brought against him.


10. It is found that this matter was not listed on the agenda for the meeting.


11. It is found that the respondents did not vote to take up the matter as new business as defined in 1-21, G.S.


12. It is concluded, therefore, that the respondents violated the 1-21(a), G.S., requirement for a two-thirds vote to take up new business at a regular meeting.


13. It further is found that the minutes of the meeting do not mention the presentation in question.


14. It is concluded that omitting the presentation from the minutes thwarts the public's right to know what happened at the meeting, in violation of 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 respondents henceforth shall act in strict compliance with 1-21(a), G.S., by:


a. making their minutes available to the public within seven days,


b. only taking up new business at regular meetings after a vote by two-thirds of the members to do so,


c. and preparing minutes that adequately inform the public about what transpires at each meeting.


Docket #FIC 87-112 Page Three


2. The respondents shall amend the minutes of the March 23, 1987, regular meeting of the Committee of the Whole to include the city attorney's presentation.


3. Although the Commission commends the respondents for keeping their entire meeting open to the public, the violations found above especially concern the Commission because the respondents have already attended a workshop on the Freedom of Information Act and had several hearings before the Commission. Obviously greater care in complying with this law is required.


4. The Commission also recommends that the respondents appoint another member of the Committee of the Whole who is less busy than the mayor to be responsible for preparing minutes.


Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of July 8, 1987.



Catherine I. Hostetter

Acting Clerk of the Commission