FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision

 

Mimi Hall and Norwich Bulletin,

 

Complainants,

 

against Docket #FIC 89-11

 

Norwich City Council's Administration, Planning and Economic Development Committee and Robert Booth, Louis Heller, Linda Becker and Roderick Arpin,

 

Respondents September 27, 1989

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 16, 1989, at which time the complainants 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 postmarked January 10, 1989, and filed with the Commission on January 11, 1989, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging the respondents held a secret meeting and requesting the imposition of a civil penalty.

 

3. It is found that on November 29, 1988, the respondents Robert Booth, Louis Heller and Linda Becker, who comprise the respondent committee, and respondent Roderick Arpin, a city alderman, met at the Sachem Inn in Madison with a financial consultant and a developer.

 

4. It is found that on December 20, 1988, those same respondents met in Norwich with two other developers.

 

5. It is found that the respondents did not file notices or minutes for these meetings with the Norwich city clerk.

 

6. It is found that the complainants first learned about the December 20, 1988 gathering on December 21, 1988 and did not learn about the November 29, 1988 gathering until after printing an article on December 22, 1988 about the December 21 gathering.

 

Docket #FIC 89-11 Page Two

 

7. At the hearing the respondents moved to dismiss the complaint as to the November 29, 1988 gathering, claiming the complaint was not filed within thirty days of that gathering. The hearing officer denied this motion to dismiss, as the complainants filed their complaint within thirty of discovering the gathering occured, in compliance with 1-21i(b), G.S.

 

8. Also at the hearing, the respondents moved to strike on page two of the complaint: the second sentence of paragraph 1, and all of paragraphs 2, 3 and 4. The hearing officer declined to rule on the motion to strike as all those paragraphs relate to whether a civil penalty should be imposed and the purpose of the hearing was for taking evidence to determine whether any violations of the Freedom of Information Act occurred.

 

9. It is found that at both of the gatherings in question the respondents heard from developers about their concerns for certain downtown Norwich restoration projects; related goals for enhancing the downtown area's economic base, aesthetics and cultural offerings; and potential project problems.

 

10. It is found that these are matters over which the respondent committee and its members have advisory power.

 

11. It is found that all the members of the respondent committee were present at both gatherings.

 

12. Thus it is concluded that the gatherings in question were meetings of the respondent committee and its respondent members within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S.

 

13. It is further concluded that the respondent committee and the respondents Robert Booth, Louis Heller, and Linda Becker violated 1-21(a), G.S., by holding a meeting without filing a notice or minutes with the city clerk and by thereby limiting public access to the meeting.

 

14. The Commission notes that the respondents offered no evidence at the hearing in this matter and concludes that they absolutely failed in their burden of proof.

 

15. The Commission also takes administrative notice of its final decisions in its docket ##'s 88-230, 88-239, 88-246 and 88-268, in which it also concluded the Norwich city council, of which the respondents are a committee and members respectively, violated the open meetings provisions of the Freedom of Information Act during 1988.

 

Docket #89-11 Page Three

 

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

 

1. The respondent committee shall file minutes of its November 29 and December 20, 1988 meetings with the city clerk within seven days of receipt of the notice of final decision in this matter.

 

2. The respondent committee henceforth shall act in strict compliance with the open meeting requirements of 1-21(a), G.S.

 

3. The respondent committee members shall show cause, at an evidentiary hearing to be held by the Commission within 60 days of the mailing of the notice of final decision in this matter, why a civil penalty should not be imposed upon them.

 

4. The complaint as to Roderick Arpin is hereby dismissed.

 

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:

MIMI HALL AND NORWICH BULLETIN, 66 Franklin Street, Norwich, CT 06360

 

NORWICH CITY COUNCIL'S ADMINISTRATION, PLANNING AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE AND ROBERT BOOTH, LOUIS HELLER, LINDA BECKER AND RODERICK ARPIN, c/o Ralph Bergman, Esq., Assistant Corporation Counsel, 60 Shetucket Street, Norwich, CT 06360

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of September 27, 1989.

 

 

Tina C. Frappier

Acting Clerk of the Commission