FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Aldene Burton,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 87-249

 

Salary Committee of the Torrington City Council, Torrington City Council and Torrington Corporation Counsel,

 

Respondents January 13, 1988

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 1, 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. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on August 27, 1987, the complainant alleged that the "governing body" of Torrington had approved pay raises in violation of the Freedom of Information Act. Specifically, the complainant alleged that employees had been discussed at social gatherings and that minutes of committee "transactions" were not kept.

 

3. By letter filed with the Commission on September 3, 1987, the complainant amplified his complaint by stating that the respondent salary committee failed to follow proper procedures regarding pay raises and that the respondent council approved the raises in spite of such alleged impropriety.

 

4. By letter filed with the Commission on September 4, 1987, the complainant alleged that the respondent corporation counsel had a conflict of interest when he offered his opinion on the legality of pay raises approved by the respondent council. Such matter is not, however, within the jurisdiction of the Commission.

 

Docket #FIC 87-249 Page Two

 

5. It is found that in July, 1986, the respondent salary committee was charged by the respondent council with recommending salary increases for management personnel for the 1987 budget. The respondent salary committee has two members, Raymond Rubino and Mark FitzGerald.

 

6. Approximately one year later, Raymond Rubino, using a computer, identified comparable salary increases ranging from 6% to 10%. Mr. Rubino subsequently encountered Mark FitzGerald at a golf tournament where he relayed his findings and elicited Mr. FitzGerald's opinion that an 8% increase would probably be acceptable to the respondent council.

 

7. Based upon their brief discussion at the golf tournament, the respondent salary committee presented the respondent council, at its August 3, 1987 regular meeting, with a proposal for an 8% salary increase.

 

8. At its August 3, 1987 regular meeting the respondent council convened an executive session "on personnel" to discuss a "management package," including the respondent salary committee's recommendation of an 8% salary increase. Upon reconvening in public session the respondent council unanimously adopted the management package.

 

9. Subsequent to the respondent council's August 3, 1987 meeting, allegations of impropriety were made concerning the manner in which the respondent salary committee discussed the salary increase proposal.

 

10. At an August 24, 1987 special meeting the respondent council discussed allegations that the respondent salary committee met improperly and that the executive session to discuss the management package violated the Freedom of Information Act.

 

11. At an August 31, 1987 special meeting of the respondent council the respondent corporation counsel offered his opinion concerning the allegations referred to at paragraph 10, above. The respondent council voted to place the matter on the agenda for its next meeting.

 

12. At its September 8, 1987 regular meeting the respondent council voted to rescind the management package adopted August 3, 1987. The respondent council then accepted comments concerning the management package, following which it voted to reinstate the management package as previously passed.

 

Docket #FIC 87-249 Page Three

 

13. The complaint does not contain any allegations with respect to the propriety of the respondent council's August 3, 1987 executive session to discuss the management package. It was acknowledged by the respondent council, however, that discussion of fiscal matters is not a proper subject for an executive session.

 

14. The complainant did not present evidence regarding his allegation that employees were discussed at social gatherings.

 

15. It is found that the golf tournament referred to at paragraph 6, above, was a social meeting neither planned nor intended for the purpose of discussing matters relating to the official business of the respondent salary committee and was not, therefore, a meeting within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S.

 

16. It is found, however, that the brief discussion which took place between the two members of the respondent salary committee at the golf tournament concerned a matter over which the respondent salary committee had supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power.

 

17. It is further found that the direct result of the discussion which took place at the golf tournament was a decision to recommend an 8% salary increase for management, which recommendation was adopted by the respondent council.

 

18. It is concluded that the exchange between the two members of the respondent salary committee which resulted in the recommendation of an 8% salary increase for management was a meeting within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S. and that the respondent salary committee's failure to provide notice of and public access to such meeting violated 1-21(a), G.S.

 

19. Based upon the respondent council's September 8, 1987 actions concerning the management package the Commission hereby declines to declare null and void the action taken August 3, 1987 upon the same matter.

 

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

 

1. The respondent salary committee shall henceforth act in strict compliance with the requirements of 1-21(a), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 87-249 Page Four

 

2. To the extent that the complaint alleges violations of the Freedom of Information Act by the respondent council and the respondent corporation counsel, the complaint is hereby dismissed.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of January 13, 1988.

 

 

Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission