FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

William A. Oppenheimer and Kathleen F. Oppenheimer,

 

Complainants

 

against Docket #FIC 88-273

 

Redding Board of Tax Review,

 

Respondent November 9, 1988

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on August 26, 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. The respondent posted a "legal notice" with the town clerk on February 24, 1988, indicating that it would meet on March 16, March 17, March 18, and March 19, 1988 to hear the appeals of aggrieved taxpayers regarding the assessments of their real estate and personal properties.

 

3. On March 19, 1988, the complainants submitted an appeal petition to the respondent concerning the assessment of their property located at 80 Black Rock Turnpike.

 

4. According to the date noted on the complainants' appeal petition, the respondent, at its March 19, 1988 meeting, reduced the assessment of the complainants' property located at 80 Black Rock Turnpike and increased the assessment of their property located at 185 Redding Road.

 

5. On March 31, 1988, all three members of the respondent discussed and decided approximately 12 outstanding appeal petitions. The respondent did not post notice, did not record votes and did not file minutes of its March 31, 1988 meeting.

 

6. The respondent's March 31, 1988 meeting was the subject of a complaint filed in Docket #FIC 88-156, Barbara Whiting v. Redding Board of Tax Review. The Commission conducted a hearing concerning that appeal on June 17, 1988.

 

Docket #FIC 88-273 Page 2

 

7. At the June 17, 1988 hearing in Docket #FIC 88-156, the chairman of the respondent testified that the assessments of 80 Black Rock Turnpike and 185 Redding Road were adjusted at the respondent's March 31, 1988 meeting.

 

8. By letter of complaint dated July 6, 1988 and filed with the Commission on July 8, 1988, the complainants alleged that the respondent held an unnoticed meeting on March 31, 1988, for which it did not record votes and did not file minutes.

 

9. The complainants requested that the actions taken on their properties at the respondent's March 31, 1988 meeting be declared null and void.

 

10. Subsequent to the hearing, the complainants asked that only the action taken on their property located at 185 Redding Road be declared null and void.

 

11. The respondent claims that since it adjusted the assessments of the complainants' properties at its March 19, 1988 meeting and not at its March 31, 1988 meeting, the complaint is without merit.

 

12. The Commission takes administrative notice of the record and the final decision in its contested case, Docket #FIC 88-156, Barbara Whiting v. Redding Board of Tax Review.

 

13. It is found that the respondent heard approximately 90 appeal petitions and increased the assessments of only two properties, one of which was the complainants' property located at 185 Redding Road.

 

14. The Hearing Officer notes that the complainants never submitted an appeal petition to the respondent regarding the assessment of 185 Redding Road.

 

15. At the hearing on this matter, Edward McCarty, a member of the respondent, testified that the assessments of the complainants' properties were adjusted on March 19, 1988, on or about 4:00 p.m.

 

16. Immediately following the testimony described in paragraph 15, above, the chairman of the respondent testified that the assessments of the complainants' properties were adjusted at its March 19, 1988 meeting, on or about 4:00 p.m.

 

17. The Commission notes that the testimony of the chairman of the respondent directly conflicts with his sworn testimony given at the June 17, 1988 hearing in Docket #FIC 88-156.

 

Docket #FIC 88-273 Page 3

 

18. It is found that the chairman was the only member of the respondent to testify at the June 17, 1988 hearing in Docket #FIC 88-156.

 

19. It is found that the respondent adjusted the assessments of the complainants' properties.

 

20. It is found that the respondent's March 31, 1988 meeting was a secret or unnoticed meeting within the meaning of 1-21i(b), G.S.

 

21. It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-21(a), G.S., by not posting notice of its March 31, 1988 meeting, not recording votes and not filing minutes of the meeting.

 

22. The Hearing Officer notes that at the hearing, the complainants requested that the actions taken on their properties at the respondent's March 19, 1988 meeting be declared null and void if in fact such actions were taken at that meeting.

 

23. Based upon the finding made in paragraph 19, above, the Hearing Officer will not address any improprieties regarding the respondent's March 19, 1988 meeting and further notes that such allegations were not fairly raised in the letter of complaint.

 

24. Although the complainants, at the hearing, alleged that the respondent failed to provide them with personal notice prior to increasing the assessment of 185 Redding Road, the Commission lacks jurisidiction over that issue.

 

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

 

1. The action taken by the respondent at its March 1988 meetings regarding the assessment of 185 Redding Road is hereby declared null and void.

 

2. The respondent forthwith shall reconstruct minutes of its March 31, 1988 meeting, which shall reflect the time, date, place of the meeting, the identities of the agency members, the business that transpired at the meeting and how each member of the respondent voted on each appeal petition that was acted upon at that meeting.

 

Docket #FIC 88-273 Page 4

 

3. Henceforth, the respondent shall act in strict compliance with the requirements of 1-21(a), G.S., regarding the filing of minutes, the posting of notices and agendas for public meetings and the recording of votes of agency members.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of November 9, 1988.

 

 

Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission