FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Kidstop, Inc. and Joseph and Margaret Heffel,
against Docket #FIC 90-172
Helen M. Schilkowski, Mary Ann Far, Paula S. Ellis, George Lucas, Jr., Donna Moylan, Debra J. Santora, Robert M. Opotzner, Stacy Herbert, William C. Carr and Shelton Board of Education,
Respondents June 27, 1990
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 20, 1990, 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 of complaint dated May 29, 1990 and filed with the Commission on May 30, 1990, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that:
a. the respondent board improperly conducted public business in executive session on May 2, 1990 and May 16, 1990;
b. the board failed to produce written minutes of its May 22, 1990 meeting on May 23, 1990; and
c. the board failed to produce minutes of its May 16, 1990 meeting on May 23, 1990;
and requesting the following relief:
Docket #FIC 90-172 Page 2
d. that certain actions taken by the board at its meetings of May 2, 1990 and May 16, 1990 be declared null and void;
e. that the board be required to provide a summary of all matters discussed in its May 2, 1990 and May 16, 1990 executive sessions;
f. that a civil penalty in the amount of $1,000.00 be imposed on the respondents; and
g. that a hearing on this matter be scheduled on an expedited basis as provided in Conn. Agencies Regs. 1-21j-43(b).
3. This matter was accorded priority in the assignment for hearing pursuant to Conn. Agencies Regs. 1-21j-43(b).
4. At the hearing on this matter, the respondent moved to strike paragraph 3 of the complaint, as described in paragraph 2.b, above; objected to the Commission hearing any evidence with respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2.c, above, because that allegation was not recited on the first page of the complaint under the heading "Specific Items Complained About;" and also requested that the Commission impose a civil penalty against the complainants.
5. It is found that the respondents convened in executive session for 50 minutes at their regular meeting of May 2, 1990 for the stated purpose of discussing a contractual matter.
6. It is found that the topics discussed in the May 2, 1990 executive session included the inextricably related subjects of the daycare service provided by the complainants, the re-opening of Sunnyside School, and proposals for the renovation of the mezzanine and business area of Shelton High School.
7. It is found that, following the May 2, 1990 executive session, the respondent board voted to rescind its motion of March 28 approving the move of the board's central office with the meeting room not to exceed $20,000; to approve the move of the board's central office to either of two locations in the High School, depending on whether funding was subsequently made available by the Board of Alderman; and to notify the complainants that the classrooms they used at the High School may not be available to them 60 days after the meeting.
8. It is found that the respondents convened in executive session for two hours at their special meeting of May 16, 1990 for the stated purpose of discussing a contractual matter involving the relocation of the board's central office to the mezzanine area of Shelton High School.
Docket #FIC 90-172 Page 3
9. It is found that the topics discussed in the May 16, 1990 executive session included which construction contract proposals could be negotiated, whether contracts should be awarded based on the lowest proposals, and generally what procedures should be followed in the negotiation and awarding of contracts for the renovation of the mezzanine and business area of the High School.
10. It is found that, following the May 16, 1990 executive session, the board voted to add discussion of the relocation of the board's central office to the agenda, and also voted to approve the move of the board's central office to the business area at the High School.
11. The respondents maintain that the topics described in paragraphs 6 and 9, above, were permissibly discussed in executive session because all ultimately related to construction contract negotiations to be entered into by the respondent board.
12. It is concluded that discussion of matters relating to contractual negotiations is not a proper purpose for an executive session as defined in 1-18a(e), G.S.
13. The respondents also maintain that the topics described in paragraph 9, above, were permissibly discussed in executive session by virtue of 1-19(b)(7), G.S.
14. It is found that the respondents' May 16, 1990 executive session was not convened for the purpose permitted by 1-18a(e)(5) of preventing disclosure of public records or the information contained therein described in 1-19(b)(7), G.S.
15. It is concluded that the respondents violated 1-21(a), G.S., by convening in executive session on May 2, 1990 and May 16, 1990 for reasons not defined in 1-18a(e), G.S., and by discussing in those executive sessions topics not defined in 1-18a(e), G.S.
16. With respect to the allegations described in paragraphs 2.b and 2.c, above, it is found that the complainant requested minutes of the May 16 and May 22 meetings less than seven days, excluding Saturday and Sunday as provided in 1-21(b), G.S., after either of those meetings.
17. It is concluded that the respondents did not violate 1-21(a), G.S., by failing to make available for public inspection the minutes of the May 16, 1990 and May 22, 1990 meetings less than seven business days after either of those meetings.
Docket #FIC 90-172 Page 4
18. Although not alleged in the complaint, the Commission notes that the respondents' vote at their May 16, 1990 special meeting to add the discussion about relocation of the board's central office to their agenda was in violation of 1-21(a), G.S.
19. The Commission in its discretion declines to impose a civil penalty against the respondents.
20. It is found that the complainants did not take this appeal to the Commission frivolously, without reasonable grounds, or solely for the purpose of harassing the respondents.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The actions of the respondents as described in paragraphs 7 and 10 of the findings, above, are hereby declared null and void.
2. With respect to the allegations described in paragraphs 2.b and 2.c of the findings, above, the complaint is hereby dismissed.
3. The respondent board of education shall, within 30 days of notice of this final decision, contact the staff of the Commission to arrange for an educational workshop to be conducted by a member of the Commission's staff.
Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 27, 1990.
Tina C. Frappier
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 90-172 Page 5
PURSUANT TO SECTION 4-180(c), G.S. THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION, OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.
THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:
KIDSTOP, INC. AND JOSEPH AND MARGARET HEFFEL
c/o Michael O. Sheehan, Esquire
105 Court Street
P.O. Box 1928
New Haven, CT 06509
HELEN M. SCHILKOWSKI, MARY ANN FAR, PAULA S. ELLIS, GEORGE LUCAS, JR., DONNA MOYLAN, DEBRA J. SANTORA, ROBERT M. OPOTZNER, STACY HERBERT, WILLIAM C. CARR AND SHELTON BOARD OF EDUCATION
c/o John P. Bashar, Esquire
80 Ferry Boulevard
Stratford, CT 06497
Tina C. Frappier
Acting Clerk of the Commission