In the Matter of a Complaint by                        Final Decision


Kathleen Stack, James Hallas and the Glastonbury Citizen Inc.,




            against              Docket #FIC 90-495


State of Connecticut, Arbitration Panel and Glastonbury Education Association,


                        Respondents                 December 11, 1991


            The above-captioned matter was originally filed against the Glastonbury Board of Education and the State of Connecticut, Board of Mediation and Arbitration.  Prior to the initial hearing on this matter, the complainant withdrew her complaint against the Glastonbury Board of Education.


            The initial hearing on this matter was conducted on April 22, 1991, at which time the complaint was dismissed against the State of Connecticut, Board of Mediation and Arbitration.  The complaint was then rescheduled for hearing against the State of Connecticut, Department of Education and the matter was heard on July 30, 1991.  The matter was thereafter reopened for the purpose of naming the State of Connecticut, Arbitration Panel as a respondent and was heard as a contested case on November 12, 1991, at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.


            At the November 12, 1991 hearing on this matter, the Glastonbury Education Association asked to be made a party to these proceedings, which request was granted.


            After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:


            1.  The respondent arbitration panel (hereinafter "panel") is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.


Docket #FIC 90-495                           Page 2


            2.  By letter dated December 13, 1990 and filed December 19, 1990, the complainants appealed to the Commission alleging that on December 8, 1990, complainant Stack was asked to leave an arbitration hearing, conducted by three members of the respondent panel, in violation of the Freedom of Information (hereinafter "FOI") Act.


            3.  It is found that on December 8, 1990 an arbitration  hearing (hereinafter "hearing") was held by a panel of three arbitrators comprised of a representative for the Glastonbury Board of Education, a representative for the respondent Glastonbury Education Association and a neutral representative, pursuant to 10-153f, G.S.


            4.  It is also found that the purpose of the hearing was to allow the Glastonbury Board of Education and the Glastonbury Education Association to each present a "last best contract" offer and to submit evidence and argument on behalf of their positions to the members of the respondent panel.


            5.  Section 10-153f, G.S., provides a procedure for the arbitration of collective bargaining disputes relative to teachers' contracts when settlement has not been reached by the local board of education and the teachers' union through negotiation or mediation.


            6.  Section 10-153f(c), G.S., provides that parties who have not settled their contract dispute (through negotiation or mediation) must notify the Commissioner of Education of either their agreement to submit their dispute to a single arbitrator or the name of an arbitrator selected by each of them.  If the parties choose the latter course, the commissioner, must select a third arbitrator to act as an impartial representative of the public's interest.


            7.  It is also found that the respondent panel members described in paragraph 3, above, unanimously decided that the hearing should not be held in public on the basis that arbitration hearings are part of the collective bargaining negotiation process.


            8.  The respondents maintain that collective bargaining relative to teachers' contract disputes is technically a three-part process beginning with negotiation, followed by mediation and ultimately resulting in arbitration if the two earlier phases fail to yield an agreement acceptable to both parties involved in the dispute.


Docket #FIC 90-495                           Page 3


            9.  The respondents further maintain that the December 8, 1990 hearing was part of the negotiation process through which parties ultimately arrive at a collective bargaining agreement and therefore was not a "meeting" within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S.


            10.  Section 1-18a(b), G.S., provides in part that a  "meeting" for purposes of the FOI Act shall include any hearing or other proceeding of a public agency.


            11.  Section 1-18a(b), G.S., further provides that a "meeting" shall not include "strategy or negotiations with respect to collective bargaining."


            12.  The respondents maintain that although the purpose of arbitration hearings is to present "last best contract offers," there is still room for negotiation by the parties during the hearing itself.  The respondent further maintains that in fact, changes often occur in the positions of the parties during the hearing as a result of further negotiation and that absolute final positions are not really stated until the hearing's conclusion.


            13.  It is found that the parties to a contract dispute can negotiate an agreement on their own with respect to any of the disputed issues, prior to the determination of the respondent panel and that any stipulation of the parties overrides the "last best contract offer" delivered at the hearing.


            14.  It is found that the respondents failed to prove, in this case, that collective bargaining negotiations actually occurred during the hearing in question.


            15.  It is therefore concluded that although the respondent panel's hearings may and often do lead to further negotiation, the actual arbitration hearing in this case, during which the parties offered evidence and argument, constituted a meeting within the meaning of 1-18a(b), which should have been open to the public pursuant to 1-21 G.S.


            16.  It is further concluded however, that to the extent the arbitration hearing led to further negotiations by the parties, such negotiation portions did not constitute a meeting within the meaning of 1-18a(b) and therefore could properly have been conducted in private.


Docket #FIC 90-495                           Page 4


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


            1.  Henceforth the respondent panel shall comply with the requirements of 1-18a(b) and 1-21, G.S., with respect to the conduct of its arbitration hearings.


Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of December 11, 1991.



                                    Debra L. Rembowski

                                    Acting Clerk of the Commission


Docket #FIC 90-495                           Page 5





Kathleen Stack

James Hallas

The Glastonbury Citizen, Inc.

P.O. Box 373

Glastonbury, CT 06033


State of Connecticut, Arbitration Panel

c/o Diane W. Whitney

Assistant Attorney General

110 Sherman Street

Hartford, CT 06105


Glastonbury Education Association

c/o Attorney William J. Dolan

21 Oak Street, Suite 500

Hartford, CT 06106



                                    Debra L. Rembowski

                                    Acting Clerk of the Commission