FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Frank E. Tassistro,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 91-85

 

LeRoy Dyer, Superintendent, Portland Public Schools, Allen Cohen and Karen Jacobi as members of the Portland Board of Education, Wesley J. Pierini, Portland First Selectman, Thomas W. Flood, Jr. and Richard H. Hall as members of the Portland Board of Selectmen,

 

Respondents September 25, 1991

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 11, 1991, 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 members of public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. By letter filed with this Commission on March 20, 1991, the complainant alleged that the respondents conducted a secret and unnoticed meeting on February 28, 1991 for which no minutes were taken and at which the Portland School Budget was discussed. According to this complaint, the February 28 meeting was allegedly held prior to an open town meeting three weeks later in which the Portland Board of Selectmen and Portland Board of Education were charged with arriving at their own separate budgets.

 

3. It is found that the gathering in question consisted of the school superintendent, two members of the seven-member board of selectmen, two members of the seven-member board of education, and the first selectman; and that no quorum of these public agencies was present on February 28.

 

4. It is found that the first selectman is not only a member of the Board of Selectmen, but also is the chief executive officer of the town responsible for presenting an itemized annual operating budget including the Board of Education budget.

 

5. The Commission takes administrative notice of the

 

Docket #FIC 91-85 Page 2

 

Charter of the Town of Portland as well as of its Advisory Opinion #56, dated March 30, 1984 and requested by John C. Hinchliffe, Jr., Selectman of the Town of Stafford.

 

6. It is found that the purpose of the February 28 gathering was for the first selectman to impart information concerning his budget decisions, which decisions he feared would negatively impact and potentially alienate the others present.

 

7. It is also found that on February 28, the first selectman was acting in his capacity as the chief executive officer of the town.

 

8. It is further found that at no time did those persons present on February 28 report back to the membership of the respective agencies they served concerning the February 28 session.

 

9. It is concluded that the February 28 meeting constituted an administrative meeting of a single-member public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S., and that accordingly, under the facts of this case, the respondents did not violate the FOI Act by having an unnoticed meeting on February 28.

 

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.

 

2. The Commission points out that while the first selectman may be concerned with the perceptions and political effects of his decisions on those serving other town boards, the Commission urges all public officials not to lose sight of the perceptions of the constituents they serve. Public officials can help to alleviate the concerns of the public by conducting as much of their business as possible in an open setting.

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of September 25, 1991.

 

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission

 

Docket #FIC 91-85 Page 3

 

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:

Michael Gustafson, Esq.

Halloran & Sage

225 Asylum St.

One Goodwin Square

Hartford, CT 06103

 

Frank E. Tassistro

7 Old County Way

Portland, CT 06480

 

William R. Connon, Esq.

Sullivan, Lettick & Schoen

646 Prospect Avenue

Hartford, CT 06105

 

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission