FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Dwayne A. Braithwaite,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 88-381

 

Wallingford Town Council and Wallingford Public Utilities Commission,

 

Respondents February 22, 1989

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 14, 1988, at which time the complainant 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 and conclusions of law are reached:

 

1. The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. On August 18, 1988 the respondents separately met and convened in executive session, and subsequently conducted their executive sessions jointly.

 

3. On September 13, 1988 the respondent town council met and convened in executive session.

 

4. By letter of complaint dated September 16, 1988, postmarked September 16, 1988 and received by the Commission on September 19, 1988, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that:

 

a. the respondents' August 18, 1988 executive sessions were attended by persons for longer than the time necessary to present testimony or opinion; and

 

b. the respondent town council's September 13, 1988 executive session was attended by persons not necessary to present testimony or opinion.

 

Docket #FIC 88-381 Page 2

 

5. It is found that, in addition to members of the respondent town council and respondent utilities commission, the following individuals attended the August 18, 1988 joint executive session in its entirety:

 

a. Director of Public Utilties Raymond Smith;

 

b. Attorney Robert A. O'Neil;

 

c. Consultant Steven Daniel;

 

d. Town Attorney Adam Manzaris;

 

e. Assistant Town Attorney Gerald Farrel; and

 

f. Mayor William A. Dickinson.

 

6. It is found that the subject of the August 18, 1988 executive session was a proposed settlement negotiated with Northeast Utilities concerning a wholesale rate increase and an associated contractual agreement.

 

7. It is found that Smith, O'Neil and Daniel acted as a team throughout the executive session in presenting and answering questions about the proposed settlement negotiated by them.

 

8. It is found that, under the circumstances of this case, it was necessary for Smith, O'Neil and Daniel to be present during the entire executive session in order to supplement each other's presentations and responses to questions

 

9. It is found that the discussion in executive session involved legal issues concerning which the town attorney, as counsel for the respondent town council, and the assistant town attorney, as counsel for the respondent utilities commission, had special knowledge.

 

10. It is found that the respondents reasonably anticipated a need to obtain the opinions of the town attorney and the assistant town attorney on various legal issues that might have arisen in the course of the executive session.

 

11. Under the circumstances of this case, it is found that the respondents reasonably believed that the need for the opinions of the town attorney and assistant town attorney could have arisen at any time during the executive session and that, in order for them to provide informed opinions, that it was necessary for the town attorney and assistant town attorney to be present during the entire executive session.

 

Docket #FIC 88-381 Page 3

 

12. It is found that the mayor was invited by the respondents to the August 18, 1988 executive session and his opinion regarding the proposed settlement was solicited by the respondent town council.

 

13. It is further found that, under the circumstances of this case, in order for the mayor provide an informed opinion, it was necessary for him to be present during the entire executive session.

 

14. It is concluded that, with respect to the presence of the individuals described in paragraph 5 above at the August 18, 1988 executive session, the respondents complied with the provisions 1-21g, G.S.

 

15. It is found that, in addition to members of the respondent town council, the following individuals attended the September 3, 1988 executive session in its entirety:

 

a. Mayor William A. Dickinson.

 

b. Town Attorney Adam Manzaris;

 

c. Town Council Secretary Rosemary Rascati;

 

b. Town Clerk Kathryn Wall;

 

16. It is found that the town attorney was invited to the September 13, 1988 executive session by the respondent town council to present a settlement recommendation.

 

17. It is found that the mayor was invited to the September 13, 1988 executive session by the respondent town council to offer his opinion regarding the settlement recommendation.

 

18. It is concluded that, with respect to the presence of the mayor and the town attorney at the September 13, 1988 executive session, the respondents complied with the provisions 1-21g, G.S.

 

19. At the hearing, the respondent town council maintained that the town clerk's presence at the September 13, 1988 executive session was necessary because of her responsibilities as clerk of the town council, and that the town council secretary's presence at that executive session was necessary because of her responsibilities as recording secretary for the town council.

 

Docket #FIC 88-381 Page 4

 

20. It is found that neither the town clerk nor the town council secretary were invited by the respondent town council to the September 13, 1988 executive session to present testimony or opinion pertinent to matters before said body.

 

21. It is concluded that with respect to the presence of the town clerk and the town council secretary at the September 13, 1988 executive session, the respondent town council violated 1-21g, G.S.

 

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

 

1. With respect to the allegations concerning the August 18, 1988 executive sessions, the complaint is hereby dismissed.

 

2. The respondent town council shall henceforth act in strict compliance with 1-21g, G.S.

 

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of February 22, 1989.

 

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission