FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Walter A. Czaja, Jr.,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 91-169

 

Ferris Bromley, Peter Lirot, Eric Andrews, David Gross, Joseph Slater, Robert Bilafer, Daniel Paulonis, Janet Lynch, Regional School District 17 Board of Education and Charles Sweetman, Superintendent of Schools, Regional School District 17,

 

Respondents October 9, 1991

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 30, 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 public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. By complaint filed July 1, 1991, the complainant alleged that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act by holding two illegal emergency meetings on June 17, 1991 and June 27, 199l.

 

3. The complainant alleged in addition that an illegal executive session was held at the emergency meeting on June 17, 199l, and that the respondents failed to file minutes within seventy-two hours of its June 27, 1991 meeting. He asked that the maximum civil penalty be imposed for the violations.

4. It is found that the respondents did hold emergency special meetings on June 17, 1991 and on June 27, 199l.

 

Docket #FIC 91-169 Page 2

 

5. The respondents claimed that the emergency special meetings were lawful because of the restrictions created by 10-51, G.S., which requires the board to call a district meeting to consider the same or an amended budget within two weeks after the rejection of a budget and also requires that notice be provided to the public not less than one week in advance of the district meeting.

 

6. The respondents claimed that the time periods required by 10-151, G.S., and the difficulty of obtaining a quorum of the board justified the call of the emergency meeting.

 

7. It is found that the respondents did notify the press of the emergency special meetings, and that they made no attempt to keep citizens out of the meeting.

 

8. It is found that the respondents failed to prove that it would have been impossible to treat the meetings in question as special meetings with notice posted at the town clerk's office twenty-four hours in advance, except that the thought of treating the meeting as a special meeting did not occur to them.

 

9. It is concluded that the emergency special meetings of June 17, 1991 and June 27, 1991 violated the requirements of 1-21, G.S.

 

10. It is found, however, that the respondents were acting in good faith under the belief that an emergency meeting was required under the particular pressures and time restraints inherent in the situations.

 

11. It is found that the executive session on June 17, 1991 was held to discuss a personnel matter.

 

12. It is concluded that the executive session was held for a proper purpose within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

13. It is found that the complainant was denied copies of minutes of the June 27, 1991 minutes at the office of the Superintendent of Schools when he requested them approximately eighty-four hours after the meeting, and that the minutes were not available at the town clerk's office within that time period.

 

14. It is found that although the minutes were prepared in a timely fashion, the complainant was denied a copy of the minutes in violation of 1-19(a), G.S.


 

#FIC 91-169 Page 3

 

15. It is found that under the facts of this case, where the respondents made efforts to inform the newspapers of the emergency meeting, that a civil penalty is not warranted.

 

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

 

1. The respondents shall henceforth comply with 1-19(a) and 1-21, G.S.

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of October 9, 1991.

 

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission

 

Docket #FIC 91-169 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:

Walter A. Czaja, Jr.

24 High Street

Higganum, CT 06441

 

Ferris Bromley, Peter Lirot, Eric Andrews, David Gross, Joseph Slater, Robert Bilafer, Daniel Paulonis, Janet Lynch, Regional School District 17, Board of Education, Charles Sweetman, Superintendent of Schools, Regional School District 17

c/o Dana E. Shaw, Esq.

Siegel, O'Connor, Schiff Zangari & Kainen, P.C.

370 Asylum Street

Hartford, CT 06103

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission