FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Lorraine Gawronski, Mabel Ouellette, and Ruth Peralli,

 

Complainants

 

against Docket #FIC 88-72

 

East Windsor Elderly Commission,

 

Respondent June 8, 1988

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 15, 1988, at which time the complainants 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. On February 22, 1988, the respondent held a special meeting at the East Windsor Town Hall.

 

3. By letter of complaint dated February 24, 1988 and filed with the Commission on February 29, 1988, the complainants alleged they were denied the right to attend the respondent's February 22, 1988 special meeting and were denied the right to speak at that meeting.

 

4. At the hearing, counsel for the respondent moved to disqualify the Director of the East Windsor Senior Center as representative for the complainants on the ground that her representation constituted a conflict of interest with her employment by the respondent.

 

5. The Commission denied the respondent's motion described in paragraph 4, above.

 

6. The respondent contends the complainants were not denied the right to attend the February 22, 1988 special meeting within the meaning of 1-21(a), G.S.

 

7. It is found that the respondent posted notice of its February 22, 1988 special meeting, indicating that it would conduct a "workshop to study and establish new policies.".

 

Docket #FIC 88-72 Page 2

 

8. It is found the respondent's February 22, 1988 special meeting convened at 7:10 p.m. A quorum of the respondent was present at the meeting.

 

9. It is found the purpose of the respondent's February 22, 1988 special meeting was to develop staff policies and procedures for the East Windsor Senior Center. The complainants are employees of the Center.

 

10. It is found the February 22, 1988 special meeting constituted the convening of a quorum of a multi-member public agency for the purpose of discussing a matter over which it has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S.

 

11. It therefore is concluded the respondent's February 22, 1988 special meeting was a meeting within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S.

 

12. It is found the complainants arrived at the Town Hall to attend the respondent's February 22, 1988 special meeting at approximately 7:30 p.m.

 

13. It is found that upon their arrival, the complainants found the door to the meeting room closed. The complainants knocked on the meeting room door and were told by the chairman of the respondent that they could not attend the meeting because it was a workshop.

 

14. It is found that approximately two to ten minutes after being told they could not attend the meeting, the complainants were informed by another member of the respondent that they could attend but not speak at the meeting.

 

15. It is found that the complainants left the Town Hall after being told they could attend the meeting because they felt unwelcome.

 

16. It is found the respondent did not conduct any substantive business during the time in which the complainants were kept from the February 22, 1988 special meeting.

 

17. At the hearing, the respondent admitted that it made a mistake by not initially permitting the complainants to attend its February 22, 1988 special meeting and opened the meeting to the public when it realized its error.

 

18. It is concluded that the complainants were not denied the right to attend a public meeting within the meaning of 1-21(a), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 88-72 Page 3

 

19. The Commission lacks jurisdiction over the portion of the complaint alleging the complainants were denied the right to speak because there is no provision under the Freedom of Information Act requiring a public agency to accommodate public comments at its meetings.

 

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.

 

2. Although the Commission found that, under the circumstances presented, the complainants were not denied access to the meeting in question, it cautions the respondent to be mindful of such occurrences, given the appearance of impropriety and to strengthen its commitment to public access in the future.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of June 8, 1988.

 

Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission