FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Henry E. Buermeyer,
against Docket #FIC 90-225
Superintendent, Groton Public Schools and Groton Board of Education,
Respondents June 12, 1991
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 5, 1990, 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 postmarked June 13, 1990, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that:
a. the respondent board convened in executive session at its May 14, 1990 meeting concerning pending claims and litigation, when the respondent was not a party to any claims or litigation and was not engaging in strategy or negotiations;
b. the respondent superintendent, assistant superintendent, business manager and the board's attorney impermissibly attended the executive session;
c. the respondents denied him a copy of a document that was discussed in the executive session; and
d. the minutes of the May 14, 1990 meeting were not available for public inspection within seven working days of the meeting.
3. It is found that the respondent board held a special meeting on May 14, 1990.
Docket #FIC 90-225 Page 2
4. It is found that the board convened in executive session at that meeting for the stated purpose of discussing strategy and negotiations regarding a pending claim and litigation against the board by Eastern Bus Lines ("Eastern").
5. It is found that Eastern is the school bus contractor for the Town of Groton.
6. It is found that by letter dated March 14, 1990 to the board, Eastern demanded payment for unpaid financial hardship expenses alleged to be due under the terms of a contract between Eastern and the board, and indicated that legal remedies would be pursued if payment was not made within 30 days.
7. It is also found that Eastern had asserted previous claims against the board related to the demand described in paragraph 6, above, over the course of approximately a year.
8. It is also found that by complaint dated June 1, 1990, Eastern brought suit in Superior Court against the board for payment of the expenses referenced in paragraph 6, above.
9. It is concluded that a claim by Eastern was pending against the board on May 14, 1990.
10. It is found that the purpose of the board's executive session was to develop a strategic posture and response to Eastern's claim.
11. It is therefore concluded that the board did not violate 1-18a(e) and 1-21(a), G.S., by convening the executive session referenced in paragraph 4, above.
12. It is found that the respondent superintendent, assistant superintendent, business manager and the board's attorney attended the executive session by invitation from the respondent.
13. It is found that the superintendent, assistant superintendent and business manager provided testimony and opinion concerning the history of the asserted claim and other details of the controversy, including ongoing picketing by bus drivers in response to reduced wages by Eastern, and the resulting call for a police response.
14. It is found that the board's attorney provided testimony and a written opinion concerning his negotiations with Eastern and his legal recommendations concerning strategy.
15. It is concluded that the board did not violate 1-21g(a), G.S., by inviting the individuals described in paragraph 12 to offer testimony and opinion at the executive session.
Docket #FIC 90-225 Page 3
16. With respect to the complainant's allegation concerning the denial of his document request, it is found that he requested a copy of the March 14 demand letter referenced in paragraph 6, above, by letters dated April 5, April 11, and May 23, 1990.
17. It is found that the respondents initially denied the request by letters dated April 9, April 16 and May 29, 1990, and ultimately released the requested document on June 25, 1990.
18. It is concluded that the requested record is a public record within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S.
19. It is found that the requested record merely asserts Eastern's claim against the board, as does the subsequently filed lawsuit, and does not pertain to the board's strategy or negotiation with respect to that claim.
20. It is therefore concluded that the respondents violated the promptness requirement contained in 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., by refusing to disclose the requested record until June 25, 1990.
21. Finally, with respect to the complainant's allegation concerning the timeliness of the respondent's minutes, it is found that the complainant sought access to the minutes of the May 14, 1990 meeting on May 24 and May 30, 1990, but the minutes of the May 14, 1990 meeting were not made available until June 12, 1990.
22. It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-21(a), G.S., by failing to make the minutes of the May 14, 1990 meeting available for public inspection within seven days of the meeting.
23. The complainant maintains that the respondent has failed to heed the Commission's previous orders to comply with the requirements of 1-21(a), G.S., concerning the timely preparation of minutes, and asks the Commission to take administrative notice of its final decisions in Docket #FIC 89-320, Henry E. Buermeyer v. Superintendent of Schools, the Board of Education of Groton, the Committee Regarding the Compensation of the Superintendent of the Board of Education of Groton , and the Committee for Review of the Benefit Plans for the Secretaries and Food Service Employees; Docket #FIC 88-364, Henry E. Buermeyer v. Superintendent of Groton Public Schools, Groton Board of Education, and Attorney to the Groton Board of Education; Docket #FIC 88-264, Kathleen Edgecomb and The Day v. Groton Board of Education; and Docket #FIC 87-130 and 87-132, James D. Contino, Sr. and Diane M. Contino v. Groton Superintendent of Schools and Groton Board of Education.
24. The Commission notes, however, that except for Docket Numbers #FIC87-130 and 87-132, none of the cases referenced in paragraph 23, above, was the respondent board of education found to have failed to prepare its minutes within the time limits established by 1-21(a), G.S.
Docket #FIC 90-225 Page 4
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 described in paragraphs 2.a and 2.b of the findings, above, the complaint is dismissed.
2. Henceforth the respondents shall act in strict compliance with the requirements of 1-15 and 1-19, G.S., concerning prompt access to nonexempt records.
3. Henceforth the respondents shall act in strict compliance with the time limits for access to minutes contained in 1-21(a), G.S.
Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 12, 1991.
Karen J. Haggett
Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 90-225 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:
HENRY E. BUERMEYER
40 Spicer Avenue
Groton, CT 06340
SUPERINTENDENT, GROTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND GROTON BOARD OF EDUCATION
c/o Loren Lettick, Esq.
Sullivan, Lettick & Schoen
646 Prospect Avenue
Hartford, CT 06105
Karen J. Haggett
Clerk of the Commission