FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Ronald Osella,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 88-488

 

Chairman and Democratic Membership of Manchester Board of Directors,

 

Respondents September 13, 1989

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 6, 1989, 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 and conclusions of law are reached:

 

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

 

2. By letter of complaint dated and received by the Commission on December 19, 1988, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents assembled on November 21 and December 11, 1988 to discuss official business of the Town of Manchester to the exclusion of the public and without public knowledge, all in violation of 1-21, G.S.

 

3. A quorum of the Manchester Board of Directors (the "Board") consists of five members.

 

4. On November 21, 1988, five Democratic members of the Board assembled at the home of the respondent chairman.

 

5. Also present at the November 21, 1988 assembly were Theodore J. Cummings, Chairman of the Democratic Town Committee, attorney Stephen T. Penny, and attorney Kevin M. O'Brien, none of whom are members of the Board.

 

6. Attorneys Penny and O'Brien represent the Town of Manchester in pending litigation against the Eighth Utilities District.

 

7. It is found that a portion of the November 21, 1988 assembly was convened to discuss topics on the agenda for the Board's November 22, 1988 meeting, including the pending litigation referenced in paragraph 6, above.

 

8. It is concluded therefore that a portion of the November 21, 1988 assembly of a quorum of the Board was convened to discuss matters over which the Board has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S.

 

9. It is found that Cummings participated in the November 21, 1988 assembly as a moderator and mediator of the discussions.

 

10. It is found that attorneys O'Brien and Penny participated in the discussion concerning the pending litigation described in paragraph 6, above, at the November 21, 1988 assembly.

 

11. On December 11, 1988, six Democratic members of the Board again assembled at the home of the respondent chairman.

 

12. It is found that a portion of the December 11, 1988 assembly was convened to discuss topics on the agenda for the Board's December 12, 1988 meeting.

 

13. It is concluded therefore that a portion of the December 11, 1988 assembly of a quorum of the Board was convened to discuss matters over which the Board has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S.

 

14. It is found that Cummings again participated in the December 11, 1988 assembly as a moderator and mediator of the discussions.

 

15. No notice or minutes of the November 21 or December 11 assemblies were filed by the respondents.

 

16. It is also found that members of the press were excluded from the November 21 and December 11 assemblies.

 

17. The respondents argue that the November 21 and December 11 assemblies were not meetings subject to the notice, minutes or open meeting requirements of the Freedom of Information Act because those assemblies were caucuses within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S.

 

18. Section 1-18a(b), G.S. defines a "meeting" to include: "... any convening or assembly of a quorum of a multimember public agency ... to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power. ..."

 

19. Section 1-18a(b), G.S. also exempts from the definition of a meeting a "caucus of members of a single political party notwithstanding that such members also constitute a quorum of a public agency."

 

20. Section 1-18a(b), G.S. further defines "caucus" to mean "a convening or assembly of the enrolled members of a single political party who are members of a public agency within the state or a political subdivision."

 

21. It is found that persons who are not members of the Board participated in the November 21 and December 11 assemblies.

 

22. It is concluded therefore that the portions of the November 21 and December 11 assemblies during which the respondents convened to discuss matters over which the Board has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power were meetings within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S.

 

23. It is thus concluded that the respondents violated 1-21, G.S., by not complying with that section's notice, minutes and open meetings requirements with respect to those portions of the November 21 and December 11 assemblies that constituted meetings as described in paragraph 22, above.

 

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

 

1. Henceforth the respondents shall comply with the notice, minutes and open meetings requirements of 1-18a(b) and 1-21, G.S.

 

PURSUANT TO 4-180(c) C.G.S. THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE F.O.I.C., OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.

 

THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:

RONALD OSELLA

410 Hackmatack Street

Manchester, CT 06040

 

CHAIRMAN AND DEMOCRATIC MEMBERSHIP OF MANCHESTER BOARD OF DIRECTORS

c/o John W. Cooney, Esquire

41 Center Street

Manchester, CT 06040

 

Peter P. DiRosa, Jr.

Chairman of the Town of Manchester Board of Directors

451 Vernon Street

Manchester, CT 06040

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of September 13, 1989.

 

 

Tina C. Frappier

Acting Clerk of the Commission