FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Gail Regula,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 88-80

 

Acting Chairman Alyce Samuelson of the Ansonia Board of Apportionment and Taxation and Ansonia Board of Apportionment and Taxation,

 

Respondents June 8, 1988

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 19, 1988, 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 March 4, 1988 the complainant alleged that the respondent acting chairman attempted to close the respondent board's February 29, 1988 meeting to the public, and that the facility where the meeting was held was not sufficiently large to allow all interested members of the public to attend, in violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

 

3. It is found that on February 29, 1988 the respondent board held a meeting "to make further alterations in the estimates, appropriations and tax rates and to make appropriations and lay taxes for all City purposes and to fix the time when any tax laid shall become payable."

 

4. It is found that the meeting in question was called to order by the respondent acting chairman in the Front Room of the town hall. However, due to the number of people in attendance, the respondent board recessed and adjourned to a larger room.

 

Docket #FIC 88-80 Page 2

 

5. It is found that upon reconvening the meeting, members of the audience requested to be heard prior to the respondent board's taking any action on the proposed budget. At that point, the respondent acting chairman informed members of the public that the meeting was not a public hearing, and consequently the respondent board was under no obligation to entertain questions from the audience or to allow any audience participation.

 

6. It is found, however, that a motion was made and carried by the respondent board to allow members of the public to ask questions and make comments concerning the proposed budget for the fiscal year.

 

7. It is further found that during this portion of the meeting individuals became disruptive and began shouting at the respondents. The respondent board again recessed to calm its members and to restore order so that business could be conducted.

 

8. It is found that once the respondent board reconvened, it began to vote on line items of the budget. Once the voting began, members of the public descended upon the respondent board members and began shouting and using obscenities.

 

9. It is found that because of the disorderly temperament of the crowd, additional police officers were requested, and upon arrival, the officers ordered members of the public to move behind barriers which separated the audience from the respondents.

 

10. It is also found that despite the pandemonium, at no time were members of the public requested to leave the meeting.

 

11. It is concluded that the respondents did not violate any provision of the Freedom of Information Act at the February 29, 1988 meeting.

 

12. The respondents should be commended on the endurance and restraint they exercised in light of the circumstances. In the event there is a recurrence of what transpired at the meeting in question, the respondents may wish to avail themselves of 1-21h, G.S., which permits a public agency to restore order by the removal of individuals who are wilfully interrupting a public meeting when the orderly conduct of such meeting becomes unfeasible.

 

Docket #FIC 88-80 Page 3

 

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.

 

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