FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Maurice Rocheleau and Steve Woodruff,

 

Complainants

 

against Docket #FIC 87-178

 

Lisbon Board of Selectmen,

 

Respondent October 28, 1987

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 27, 1987, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared and 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 respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on June 24, 1987 the complainants alleged that the respondent had held illegal emergency meetings. Attached to the complaint were an agenda and minutes of an April 21, 1987 "emergency meeting," minutes of "emergency meetings" held June 1, 1987 and June 19, 1987 and a notice of cancellation, dated June 12, 1987, of a June 18, 1987 town meeting.

 

3. By supplemental letter also filed with the Commission on June 24, 1987 the complainants expanded their complaint to include an allegation that the signature of the third selectman had been added to documents approximately 10 days after the documents' preparation. However, such a matter is not within the jurisdiction of this Commission and will not be considered in this report.

 

4. On July 21, 1987 the complainants filed a "Statement of Issues" which included allegations related to, but not specifically encompassed by, the complaints filed on June 24, 1987. This report, however, is limited to those issues fairly raised in the complaint.

 

5. At hearing, counsel for the respondent moved for a continuance based upon the unavailability of the town attorney, which motion was denied.

 

Docket #FIC 87-178 Page Two

 

6. Also at hearing the respondent moved to dismiss the complaint and to impose sanctions against the complainants, which motions were denied.

 

7. It is found that on April 21, 1987 the respondent placed on file with the town clerk an agenda of an April 21, 1987 "emergency meeting," the purpose of which was to "meet . . . with the Department of Housing regarding the Senior Center."

 

8. The minutes of such meeting were filed on May 5, 1987 and refer to it as a "special meeting," containing no reference to any emergency. Such meeting was not, in fact, an emergency meeting within the meaning of 1-21(a), G.S.

 

9. It is found that the April 21, 1987 meeting between the respondent and the State of Connecticut Department of Housing was a "meeting" within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S. However, the meeting was held and minutes were filed more than 30 days prior to the filing of the complaint in this matter and was not an unnoticed or secret meeting within the meaning of 1-21i(b), G.S.

 

10. It is concluded that the Commission lacks jurisdiction over allegations in the complaint concerning the conduct of the April 21, 1987 meeting and the filing of the minutes of such meeting.

 

11. On June 1, 1987 the respondent held an "emergency meeting," without public notice, to make appointments and to set the annual town meeting date for consideration of the budgets of the respondent and of the board of education. Minutes of such meeting were filed with the town clerk on June 2, 1987.

 

12. At that meeting the respondent made appointments to the school building committee and to the recreation committee, and set a date of June 18, 1987 for the annual town meeting.

 

13. The respondent claims that appointing a member to the recreation committee constituted an emergency based upon the urgings of the chairman of the committee, who was anxious to hold a meeting but who feared the lack of a quorum. The respondent also claims that an appointment to the building committee constituted an emergency because the building committee was scheduled to hold a meeting June 3, 1987 and it was important that an appointment be made by then.

 

Docket #FIC 87-178 Page Three

 

14. It is found that no emergency existed concerning the appointments made on June 1, 1987. It is concluded that conducting the June 1, 1987 meeting without public notice violated 1-21(a), G.S.

 

15. It is found, however, that discussions concerning the date of the annual town meeting constituted communication limited to notice of meetings of any public agency or the agendas thereof within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S. and, as such, did not constitute a meeting.

 

16. On or about June 12, 1987 the respondent posted notice of the cancellation of the annual town meeting scheduled for June 18, 1987.

 

17. On June 19, 1987 the respondent held an "emergency meeting" to reschedule the annual town meeting, minutes of which were placed on file with the town clerk on June 19, 1987.

 

18. It is found that discussions concerning the cancellation and subsequent rescheduling of the annual town meeting constituted communication limited to notice of meetings of any public agency or the agendas thereof, within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S. and, as such, did not constitute meetings for which notice was required by 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 henceforth shall refrain from conducting meetings without at least 24 hours notice except where there arises an emergency of sufficient magnitude so as to make such notice not only inconvenient but impossible.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of October 28, 1987.

 

 

Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission