In the Matter of a Complaint by                        Final Decision


John W. Pillar,




            against              Docket #FIC 91-86


Mayor David Winkler, Jr., Nancy A. DeMarinis, Edward H. Eckelmeyer, Dolores E. Hauber, Charles R. Kosloskey, Linda B. Krause, Eunice E. Sutphen, Scott Waring, Harry Watson and Groton Town Council,


                        Respondents                 January 8, 1992


            The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 17, 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 letter dated April 2, 1991 and filed April 4, 1991, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents acted improperly during the respondent council's March 6, 1991 and March 13, 1991 meetings.


            3.  By letters dated April 8, 1991 and April 18, 1991 and filed April 18, 1991 and April 23, 1991, respectively, the complainant clarified his earlier letter and alleged that at its March 19, 1991 meeting the respondent council:


            a.  improperly considered and acted on business

                which was not on the meeting agenda and

                failed to achieve a two third's vote of the


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                members present before conducting such other

                business; and


            b.  denied the complainant's right to attend a

                public meeting by having the complainant

                physically removed from the meeting.


            4.  The complainant also asked the Commission to determine whether the imposition of civil penalties is appropriate under the circumstances of this case.


            5.  The hearing on this matter was confined to the complainant's allegations concerning the respondent council's March 19, 1991 meeting.


            6.  It is found that on March 19, 1991, the respondent council held a meeting and that during the "Citizens' Petitions" segment of the meeting, the complainant addressed the respondent council, and asked the respondent mayor what was being done to supply him with a statement indicating the person who told respondent Krause it was permissible to continue her consulting services while serving on the council.


            7.  It is also found that shortly after the complainant began to speak, the respondent mayor asked the complainant to cease speaking, stated that he was raising a "question of privilege" and appointed respondent Kosloskey as chairman pro-tem while he raised the privelege.


            8.  It is also found that the respondent mayor read a statement of council and Roberts Rules of Order, instructed the chairman pro-tem to rule that breaches of decorum are out of order and that continued behavior that is ruled out of order would result in the expulsion of the offending individual.


            9.  It is also found that the complainant asked the respondent mayor if the complainant was being denied his right to speak, that the respondent Mayor replied that he was free to speak as long as he followed the rules but that he was causing a "disturbance" and warned the complainant that he would be removed.


            10.  It is also found that the complainant told the respondent mayor to go ahead and remove him, at which time the complainant was ruled out of order and was escorted out of the council chambers by two of the respondent council members.


            11.  Section 1-21h, G.S., permits a public agency to remove members of the public from a meeting only when a person is


Docket #FIC 91-86                             Page 3


willfully interrupting such meeting "so as to render the orderly conduct of such meeting unfeasible."


            12.  It is found that the Town of Groton's rules of procedure provide for citizens' petitions during council meetings which petitions may include memorials, citizen's petitions, remonstrances and resolutions, limited only insofar that presentations may not exceed ten minutes.


            13.  The respondents maintain that the complainant has a history of mounting personal assaults on individual council members through his petitions at council meetings.


            14.  The respondents further maintain that the complainant's recurring speeches during citizens' petitions were undermining council activities and that the respondent mayor felt he had to do something to alleviate the tension at council meetings as a result thereof.


            15.  It is found that the method employed by the respondents to handle the complainant was planned in advance of the March 19, 1991 meeting and that prior to the meeting, the respondent mayor contacted respondent Kosloskey and told him that if a "certain situation" arose involving the complainant during citizens' petitions, the respondent mayor would handle it by raising a "question of privilege."


            16.  It is found that during his tenure, the respondent mayor does not recollect ever invoking a "question of privilege" or ejecting any other member of the public from a council meeting.


            17.  It is concluded that although the complainant's questioning of the respondent council during the citizens' petitions segment of the March 19, 1991 meeting may have been repetitive and frustrating to the respondent council, it did not constitute a willful interruption of the meeting within the meaning of 1-21h, G.S.


            18.  It is therefore concluded with respect to the allegation described in paragraph 3.b, above, that in the absence of behavior on the part of the complainant which would have rendered the orderly conduct of the meeting unfeasible, the respondent council violated 1-21a, G.S., when it ejected the complainant from its March 19, 1991 meeting.


            19.  With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 3.a, above, it is found that the respondent council did not act


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on a new item of business when the respondent mayor raised the "question of privilege" and it is therefore concluded that the respondent council did not violate the provisions of 1-21, G.S., by not obtaining a two-third's vote of the members present and voting before doing so.


            20.  Under the particular circumstances of this case, the Commission declines to impose civil penalties upon the respondents.


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

            1.  Henceforth the respondent Council shall refrain from ejecting members of the public from its meetings in the absence of such cause as is described in 1-21h, G.S.


            2.  The Commission recognizes the tense atmosphere which exists at meetings of the respondent council due to the complainant's recurrent questioning during its citizens' petitions segments of its meetings.  Consequently, the Commission cautions the complainant that although he was found not to have willfully disrupted the respondent council's meeting, within the meaning of 1-21(h), G.S., his actions approached that degree of disruption and that if he is not careful, he could well go beyond the bounds of the law.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of January 8, 1992.



                                    Debra L. Rembowski

                                    Acting Clerk of the Commission


Docket #FIC 91-86                             Page 5





John W. Pillar

P.O. Box 547

Groton, CT 06340


Mayor David Winkler, Jr., Nancy A. DeMarinis, Edward H. Eckelmeyer, Dolores E. Hauber, Charles R. Kosloskey, Linda B. Krause, Eunice E. Sutphen, Scott Waring, Harry Watson, Groton Town Council

c/o James F. Brennan, Esq.

P.O. Box 1591

Eugene O'Neill Drive

New London, CT 06320



                                    Debra L. Rembowski

                                    Acting Clerk of the Commission