FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Joseph W. Schwartz,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 87-271

 

Easton Board of Education,

 

Respondent January 13, 1988

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 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. By letter of complaint dated September 18, 1987 and filed with the Commission on September 23, 1987, the complainant alleged the respondent impermissibly convened in executive session at its September 10, 1987 meeting in violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

 

3. Specifically, the complainant alleged the respondent violated 1-18a(b), 1-18a(e), and 1-21(a), G.S. in that:

 

a. Prior to the September 10, 1987 meeting, some members of the respondent had dinner with school administrators at which time they discussed official school business.

 

b. The respondent impermissibly convened in executive session at its September 10, 1987 meeting.

 

c. The respondent failed to state the specific items to be discussed during an executive session on the agenda for its September 10, 1987 meeting.

 

4. The respondent claims the dinner meeting described in paragraph 3a, above, was not a meeting of a public agency within the definition of 1-18a(b), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 87-271 Page 2

 

5. The respondent further claims it properly convened in executive session under 1-18a(e)(1) and 1-18a(e)(5), G.S.

 

6. It is found approximately four members of the respondent had dinner with school administrators prior to the respondent's September 10, 1987 meeting.

 

7. It also is found the respondent regularly provides dinner for its members to enable them to socialize with one another and to ensure their attendance at meetings.

 

8. It is found, however, those members of the respondent attending the dinner described in paragraph 3a, above, did not discuss any matters relating to official school business.

 

9. It therefore is concluded the dinner meeting described in paragraph 3a, above, was not a "meeting" of a public agency within the definition set forth in 1-18a(b), G.S.

 

10. It is found the respondent convened in executive session at its September 10, 1987 meeting for the stated purposes of discussing matters relating to personnel and negotiations.

 

11. It also is found the statement "to discuss matters related to personnel and negotiations" failed to identify sufficiently the purposes for convening in executive session and it therefore is concluded the respondent violated 1-18a(e) and 1-21(a), G.S.

 

12. It is found the respondent convened in executive session to discuss the following items:

 

a. The resignations of two teachers.

 

b. A teacher's request for a leave of absence.

 

c. A request for a tuition waiver of a student moving to the Town of Easton.

 

d. Upcoming negotiations regarding teachers' and custodians' contracts.

 

e. A written statement prepared by the superintendent of schools comparing the salary levels for teachers in the Town of Easton with those from competing towns.

 

Docket #FIC 87-271 Page 3

 

13. With respect to the matters described in paragraph 12a and 12b, above, it is found the discussions concerned the employment of public employees within the meaning of 1-18a(e)(1), G.S.

 

14. It therefore is concluded with respect to the matters described in paragraphs 12a and 12b, above, the respondent convened in executive session for a permissible purpose under 1-18a(e)(1), G.S.

 

15. With respect to the matters described in paragraph 12c, above, it is found the discussion concerned a medical record of a student, where disclosure of the record would constitute an invasion of personal privacy within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

16. It therefore is concluded with respect to the matters described in paragraph 12c, above, the respondent convened in executive session for a permissible purpose under 1-18a(e)(5), G.S.

 

17. With respect to the matters described in paragraph 12d, above, it is found the discussion constituted strategy and negotiations with respect to collective bargaining, which by definition, is not a meeting under 1-18a(b), G.S.

 

18. With respect to the matters described in paragraph 12e, above, it is found the discussion concerned a record of strategy with respect to collective baragaining which is exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(9), G.S.

 

19. It therefore is concluded with respect to the matters described in paragraph 12e, above, the respondent convened in executive session for a permissible purpose under 1-18a(e)(5), 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 shall henceforth specifically state the purpose for convening in executive session pursuant to 1-18a(e) and 1-21(a), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 87-271 Page 4

 

2. Although the Commission found the dinner meeting described in paragraph 3a of the findings above, was not a meeting under the Freedom of Information Act, the Commission cautions the respondent to be mindful of such a gathering giving the appearance of impropriety.

 

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