In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION


James R. Jakubowski,




against Docket #FIC 87-297


Norwich City Council and Norwich Alderwoman Bonita Hong,


Respondents February 10, 1988


The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 18, 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. The respondent council convened in executive session during its regular meeting of October 5, 1987.


3. By letter dated October 12, 1987, and filed with the Commission on October 13, 1987, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging the respondent alderwoman convened the executive session for impermissible purposes.


4. It is found that the respondent alderwoman moved to convene in executive session to discuss "a personnel matter."


5. It is found that the respondent alderwoman wanted to discuss the performance of the city manager in the executive session.


6. It is found that the city manager is a public employee and that under 1-18a(e)(1), G.S., his performance is a permissible topic for executive session.


7. It is further found that the respondent council voted unanimously to go into the executive session.


8. It is also found, however, that although the purpose of the executive session was stated publicly, it was too vague to communicate clearly to the public the actual purpose of the executive session.


Docket #FIC 87-297 Page Two


9. It is concluded, therefore, that the respondent council 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.


10. It is found that the city clerk was present for much of the executive session and that both the city manager and corporation counsel were present for the entire executive session.


11. It is concluded that to the extent the city clerk's, city manager's and corporation counsel's presence was not necessary to present testimony or opinion in the executive session, the respondent council was in violation of 1-21g(a), G.S.


12. It is found that the city manager's general performance and his communications with the respondent council were discussed in the executive session.


13. It is found that the following other topics were discussed in the executive session, both within and beyond the context of the city manager's handling of each matter:


a. a water problem at Tetreault and Belleau Avenues,


b. a study of the police, fire and public works departments' management and a forthcoming preliminary report of the study,


c. a water supply line from Lebanon to Colchester, and


d. the architect and blueprints for certain city chambers renovations.


14. It is found that beyond the context of the city manager's performance, the topics described in paragraph 13, above, are not permissible topics for executive session under 1-18a(e), G.S.


15. It is concluded, therefore, that the respondent council violated 1-18a(e) and 1-21(a), G.S., by discussing topics that are not permissible for an executive session.


Docket #FIC 87-297 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 as to the respondent alderwoman is hereby dismissed.


2. The respondent council shall henceforth act in strict compliance with the requirements of 1-18a(e), 1-21(a) and 1-21g(a), G.S.


3. The respondent council shall schedule a workshop for its members and staff on the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act. The respondent council 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.


4. The Commission recommends that corporation counsel attend the workshop described in paragraph 3 of the order, above.


5. The Commission notes that all municipal agencies are invited to the Freedom of Information Council's educational conference held annually in early January and encourages the respondent council to take advantage of this educational opportunity.


Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of February 10, 1988.


Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission