FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
against Docket #FIC 89-414
Board of Mayor and Burgesses for the Borough of Naugatuck,
Respondent(s) July 11, 1990
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 16, 1990, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. The original caption for this case was Raymond Adamaitis v. Mayor and Borough Clerk of the Borough of Naugatuck. However, the aforementioned caption did not correctly identify the respondent in this matter. Therefore, the caption for docket #FIC 89-414 was amended to reflect the correction.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:
1. The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.
2. By letter of complaint dated November 2, 1989, and filed with the Commission on November 3, 1989, the complainant alleged that the respondent violated 1-21(a), G. S., when it held a special meeting on November 1, 1989, (hereinafter "special meeting"), and did not discuss the matters outlined in the notice for that meeting.
3. Specifically, the complainant alleges that the notice of special meeting expressly stated that:
(a). the business to be transacted at the special meeting was the August 1989 Condominium Subcommittee Report, (hereinafter "report"); and
(b). "Members [of a condominium owners association known as C. U. F. F. or CONDOS, (hereinafter "CONDOS")], Burgesses, Finance Board Members and any other interested persons [would] be given the opportunity to speak."
Docket #FIC 89-414 Page 2
4. It is found that the actual business transacted at the special meeting was limited to a presentation by members of CONDOS.
5. It is also found that the CONDOS presentation at the special meeting was directly and specifically related to the business stated in the notice of special meeting.
6. It is further found that at the special meeting members of the public were only allowed to comment on the presentation by CONDOS and not permitted to ask questions about the report.
7. It is found that the report was neither expressly made available to the public, nor discussed by members of the subcommittee and burgesses until the respondent reconvened its special meeting on November 7, 1989, (hereinafter "reconvened meeting").
8. It is found that the reconvened meeting was held as part of the respondent's November 7, 1989 regular meeting, (hereinafter "regular meeting").
9. It is also found that at the reconvened meeting members of the public were not permitted to comment on the report or the issue of the town providing services to condominium owners during the reconvened portion of the regular meeting.
10. It is further found that members of the public were only allowed to comment on the report after the reconvened meeting had been adjourned and the regular meeting had been reopened, and all voting concerning the provision of municipal services to condominium owners had been completed.
11. It is concluded that the actions of the respondent in limiting the discussion at the special meeting to the CONDOS presentation did not violate 1-21(a), G. S.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended
on the basis of the record concerning the above captioned complaint:
1. The complaint is hereby dismissed.
Docket #FIC 89-414 Page 3
2. The Commission notes that although the Freedom of Information Act neither explicitly mandates nor prohibits public comment at meetings of public agencies, when an agency exercises its discretion to open its proceedings to allow citizens to voice their opinions and concerns on a particular topic the agency creates an expectation of participatory government.
3. The Commission also notes that the although the respondent gave members of the public an opportunity to comment on the CONDOS presentation prior to the respondent taking any action on the proposed provision of municipal services to condominium owners, the notice of special meeting created an expectation that there would be an opportunity for public input about the report.
4. The Commission suggests that in light of the totality of circumstances in this case, prudent government dictated that the respondent fulfill the expectations it created with its notice of special meeting by letting members of the public discuss the report when there was still a possibility that public comment could impact the action taken on the report.
5. In the future, if the respondent indicates on its notice of special meeting that public comment will be permitted, the Commission urges the respondent to insure that public participation actually occurs with respect to the items of business specifically listed on its notice of special meeting or agenda before any action is taken on the subject matter.
6. This Commission is outraged by the respondent's apparent manipulation of events at both its November 1 and 7, 1989 meetings regarding the issue of the report. The respondent's deliberate failure to let all members of the public comment on the report at a meaningful time, and in a fair and open forum was both arbitrary and reprehensible.
7. In this case, Mayor Letts' failure to appear at the March 16, 1990 hearing for this contested case did not go unnoticed by this Commission. From the Mayor's failure to appear at the hearing on this matter, the Commission infers that his actions at both the special and reconvened meetings may not have withstood the close scrutiny of this Commission.
Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of July 11, 1990.
Tina C. Frappier
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 89-414 Page 4
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:
18 Partridgetown Road
Naugatuck, CT 06770
BOARD OF MAYOR AND BURGESSES FOR THE BOROUGH OF NAUGATUCK
c/o Ann F. Bird, Esq.
Frank G. Gleason, Esq.
Pepe & Hazard
Hartford, CT 06103
Tina C. Frappier
Acting Clerk of the Commission