FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by AMENDED

FINAL DECISION

 

Kathleen O. Minneman,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 88-94

 

Acting Superintendent of Norwich Public Schools and Norwich Board of Education,

 

Respondents July 13, 1988

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 22, 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 dated March 16, 1988 and filed with the Commission on March 18, 1988, the complainant alleged the respondent board impermissibly discussed the non-renewal of her contract in executive session after she requested the discussion be held in public.

 

3. At the hearing, the complainant requested the Commission to declare the respondent board's vote not to renew her contract null and void. The complainant also requested access to any documents presented to the board during the executive session and access to the tape recording of the closed session.

 

4. The respondents allege the complainant never requested the discussion concerning the non-renewal of her contract be held in open session.

 

5. It is found that on March 8, 1988, the respondent acting superintendent (hereinafter "respondent superintendent") notified the complainant that she would be discussed in executive session at the respondent board's March 15, 1988 regular meeting, and had the right to have the discussion held in public. The complainant was asked to notify the respondent superintendent by 4:00 p.m., on March 14, 1988, if she wanted the discussion held in public.

 

Docket #FIC 88-94 Page 2

 

6. It is found that on March 14, 1988, the complainant notified the respondent superintendent that she wanted to attend the executive session. The respondent superintendent advised her to speak with the President of the Norwich Teachers' League (hereinafter "president") for guidance and representation.

 

7. It is found that on March 14, 1988, the respondent superintendent informed the complainant that she could not attend the executive session based upon advice from counsel to the respondent board. The complainant stated that if she could not attend the executive session, she wanted an open session if that were the only way she could be present for the discussion.

 

8. It is found that at approximately 3:00 p.m., on March 14, 1988, the respondent superintendent asked the complainant to meet with him and the president. The complainant declined to attend the meeting because of a prior commitment.

 

9. It is found the respondent superintendent never notified the respondent board of the complainant's request to attend the executive session in question or of her request to attend any meeting at which she would be discussed.

 

10. It is found that on March 15, 1988, the president told the complainant that he thought she could attend the executive session. The complainant stated that if she could not attend the executive session she wanted the discussion held in public.

 

11. It is found the agenda for the respondent board's March 15, 1988 regular meeting indicated the board intended to discuss the non-renewal of the complainant's contract in open session and would convene in executive session to discuss an employee's request for an extended sick leave and employment applications for the superintendent's vacancy.

 

12. It is found that at the respondent board's March 15, 1988 regular meeting, the respondent superintendent told the president that the complainant could not attend the executive session. The president and the complainant then spoke privately with the respondent superintendent and the complainant again requested the discussion be held in public.

 

13. It is found that despite the complainant's request, the respondent board convened in executive session for the stated purpose of discussing "personnel matters." The complainant left the meeting when the board convened in executive session.

 

14. At the closed session, the respondent superintendent recommended to the board that it not renew the complainant's contract for the upcoming school year.

 

Docket #FIC 88-94 Page 3

 

15. It is found that no documents were presented to the respondent board during the executive session and no tape recording of the executive session exists.

 

16. It is found that after the executive session, the respondent board reconvened in open session and voted not to renew the complainant's contract for the upcoming school year.

 

17. It is found that pursuant to 10-151(c), G.S., the complainant appealed the decision not to renew her contract to the respondent board and that appeal is pending.

 

18. It is found the discussion of the non-renewal of the complainant's contract constituted a discussion of the complainant's employment within the meaning of 1-18a(e)(1), G.S.

 

19. It also is found the complainant invoked her right to have the discussion of her employment held in public, as required by 1-18a(e)(1), G.S.

 

20. It is concluded the respondents violated 1-18a(e)(1) and 1-21(a), G.S., by discussing the non-renewal of the complainant's contract in executive session after the complainant requested the discussion be held in public.

 

 

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

 

1. All actions taken at the respondent board's March 15, 1988 meeting with respect to the complainant are hereby declared null and void.

 

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

 

3. The Commission notes the actions of the respondent superintendent demonstrated a flagrant disregard of the complainant's right to have the discussion concerning her contract held in open session. The Commission finds such behavior unacceptable and strongly recommends that the

 

Docket #FIC 88-94 Page 4

 

respondent superintendent fully comply with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act in the future.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of July 13, 1988.

 

Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission