In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION


Susan L. Youngquist,




against Docket #FIC 88-114


Stratford Planning and Zoning Commission and Stratford Town Attorney Thomas Thornberry,


Respondents July 13, 1988


The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 17, 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. The respondent commission held a regular meeting in Room 207 of the Stratford town hall at 7:30 p.m. on March 7, 1988.


3. The respondent commission has five regular members, of whom three are Democrats and two Republicans.


4. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on March 28, 1988 the complainant, a Republican member of the respondent commission, alleged that at 7:25 p.m. on March 7, 1988, three other commission members were improperly engaged in "deep discussion" with the respondent attorney in a room other than the designated meeting room. The complainant also stated that the discussion had been witnessed by Lawrence Miller, also a Republican member of the respondent commission.


5. At hearing the complainant stated that she was unable to hear any of the conversation among the commissioners and the respondent attorney but that at the regular meeting which followed the three participating members appeared to the complainant to be better prepared to discuss certain issues than those members who did not participate in the discussion.


Docket #FIC 88-114 Page Two


6. It is found that the respondent attorney arrived at his town hall office at approximately 7:15 p.m. on March 7, 1988. A few minutes later William Lindberg, a Democrat commission member, stopped in unexpectedly for a social visit.


7. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Lindberg and the respondent attorney were joined by Joseph Kulikowski and Barbara Georgette, also Democrat commission members, whose purpose was also a social visit. One purpose of Mr. Kulikowski's visit was to introduce the respondent attorney to Ms. Georgette, whom he had not previously met.


8. It is found that the brief gathering of Democrat commission members with the respondent attorney prior to the March 7, 1988 regular meeting of the respondent commission was a social meeting neither planned nor intended for the purpose of discussing matters relating to official business and was not a "meeting" within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S.


9. It is concluded that the gathering in the town attorney's office prior to the March 7, 1988 meeting of the respondent commission did not violate the Freedom of Information Act.


10. The Commission notes, however, that the inference drawn by the complainant from the gathering of a quorum of the respondent commission was not an unreasonable one. The respondents should, in the future, be aware of the appearance created by impromptu social gatherings, not only in the eyes of minority party members, but also in the eyes of the public.


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 July 13, 1988.


Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission