FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

William H. Watson and The Meriden Record Co.,

 

Complainants,

 

against Docket #FIC 87-285

 

Chairman, Wallingford Board of Education and Wallingford Board of Education,

 

Respondents March 29, 1988

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 17, 1987, at which time the complainants 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 dated September 29, 1987, and filed with the Commission on October 2, 1987, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging the respondents illegally voted in executive session during their regular meeting of September 28, 1987.

 

3. The respondents claim that at the executive session in question they came to a consensus and did not vote.

 

4. It is found that at a meeting held one half hour before its regular meeting of September 28, 1987, the respondent board voted to go into executive session.

 

5. It is found that the earlier meeting was a special meeting, but was not noticed properly as such.

 

6. It is found that at the special meeting the respondent board of education convened in executive session to discuss the performance of soccer coach Joseph Goral.

 

7. It is found that nowhere on the joint agenda used for both the special and regular meetings is this item listed.

 

Docket #FIC 87-285 Page Two

 

8. It is concluded that the respondent board violated 1-21(a), G.S., by convening a special meeting without proper notice and by taking up an item in a special meeting that was not listed anywhere on the agenda.

 

9. It is found that the reason for the executive session was publicly stated as "personnel matters."

 

10. It is found that this statement was too vague to communicate to the public the actual reason for the executive session.

 

11. It is concluded that the respondent board further violated 1-21(a), G.S., by not stating publicly the reason for the executive session in a way that clearly communicated it to the public.

 

12. It is found that several people who were not members of the respondent board of education were present throughout the executive session.

 

13. It is concluded that to the extent the presence of these non-members was not necessary to present testimony or opinion, the respondent board violated 1-21g(a), G.S.

 

14. It is found that during the executive session the Lyman Hall High School principal informed the respondent board of his previous and planned actions regarding the coach and asked for the board's opinion of his actions.

 

15. It is found that the respondent board has a long-standing practice of going around the table and allowing each member to have a turn to speak, so that a few members cannot monopolize the conversation and every member's opinion receives full consideration.

 

16. It is found that during the executive session in question the respondent board continued this practice and allowed each member to give an opinion of the principal's actions.

 

17. It is concluded that the respondent board did not vote in the executive session and by ensuring each member a chance to voice an opinion did not violate any provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

 

Docket #FIC 87-285 Page Three

 

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

 

1. The complaint is hereby dismissed as to the respondent chairman individually.

 

2. The respondent board henceforth shall act in strict compliance with 1-21(a) and 1-21g(a), G.S.

 

3. The respondent board shall schedule a workshop for its members and staff on the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act. The respondent board shall make the necessary arrangements with the Commission's staff so that the workshop shall be held no later than 60 days from the mailing of the notice of final decision in this case.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 23, 1988.

 

 

Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission