FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Maurice Rocheleau,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 87-185

 

Lisbon Board of Finance,

 

Respondent October 28, 1987

 

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

 

2. At 9:00 a.m. on June 29, 1987 the respondent placed on file with the Lisbon town clerk notice of a special meeting to be held June 30, 1987 "to discuss the proposed 1987/88 budgets for the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Education and to set the mill rate for the 1987/88 fiscal year if the proposed budgets are accepted at the Town Meeting on Monday, June 29, 1987."

 

3. At 8:30 p.m. on June 29, 1987 four members of the respondent met, following the town meeting, in an unnoticed "emergency meeting." At such meeting, which adjourned at 8:36 p.m., the four members present set the mill rate for fiscal year 1987/88 by a unanimous vote.

 

4. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on July 1, 1987 the complainant appealed the respondent's failure to provide notice of the meeting at which the mill rate was set. The complainant alleged that two members of the respondent had not been notified of the meeting and were therefore not present.

 

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 87-185 Page Two

 

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

 

7. The respondent claims that between 8:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on June 29, 1987 it was discovered that a quorum would not be available the next day. The respondent further claims that a meeting at a later date would have fallen beyond the close of the fiscal year and would have resulted in a delay in the printing of tax bills. Furthermore, a meeting could not have been planned for an earlier date because no action on the mill rate could be taken prior to approval of the budgets at the town meeting.

 

8. It is found that a six-minute meeting, without public notice, to vote on the mill rate for the Town of Lisbon cannot be justified by the alleged, speculative, disruption in the process of sending out tax bills. The respondent made no effort to determine when a quorum would next be available and, in fact, failed to prove that a quorum would actually be unavailable on June 30, 1987.

 

9. It is concluded that the respondent failed to prove that the circumstances of its June 29, 1987 meeting constituted an emergency within the meaning of 1-21(a), G.S.

 

10. It is further concluded that the respondent's June 29, 1987 meeting, held without public notice, violated 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