FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Arthur P. Meisler and Paul Wohler,
against Docket #FIC 91-306
Town of Windham, Windham FirstSelectman, Windham Water Commission, Windham Personnel Director, Windham Labor Counsel and Windham Corporation Counsel
Respondents August 26, 1992
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 2, 1992, at which time the complainants 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. By letter dated October 7, 1991 and filed October 9, 1991, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that on several occasions a "committee" comprised of two members of the Windham Water Commission, the Personnel Director of the town of Windham (hereinafter "town"), the Labor Counsel for the town and the Windham Corporation Counsel met to discuss issues relating to the performance of water department employees, including complainant Wohler, and that the committee failed to follow the open meeting requirements of the Freedom of Information (hereinafter "FOI") Act.
2. It is found that the gatherings of the individuals described in paragraph 1, above, which are the subject of the complainants' appeal, occurred on September 9 and 13, 1991 (hereinafter "September gatherings").
3. It is also found that the September gatherings were not noticed with the town clerk, that no minutes were filed, that the gatherings were not open to the public and that the persons present did not vote to convene an executive session.
Docket #FIC 91-306 Page 2
4. The complainants maintain that the September gatherings were meetings of a committee that is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.
5. It is found that the group of individuals who participated in the September gatherings was organized by the respondent Personnel Director.
6. It is also found that it is the respondent Personnel Director's responsibility to investigate town employee matters and to make any recommendations concerning employee discipline.
7. It is also found that the respondent Personnel Director organized the September gatherings to assist him in ascertaining whether it was appropriate to impose internal disciplinary action against four Willimantic Water Department (hereinafter "department") employees who had previously been arrested by the Connecticut State Police and were the subjects of an investigation conducted by the State's Attorney's Office concerning their alleged criminal misconduct while serving as employees of the department.
8. The respondent Personnel Director maintains that he conducts investigations of town employees if allegations of misconduct arise, and that ordinarily he alone would interview persons and gather information, but that in the subject instance, he felt he needed some technical guidance and input from persons with legal experience in criminal matters and therefore he assembled the group who met for the September gatherings.
9. The respondent Personnel Director further maintains that he also would ordinarily seek assistance from the Superintendent of the department concerning department procedures, but in this case, the Superintendent was implicated in the criminal investigation and that it would have been inappropriate to seek his assistance.
10. It is finally found that the September gatherings constituted administrative and staff meetings of a single-member public agency which under 1-18a(b), G.S., are excluded from the definition of a "meeting" for purposes of the FOI Act.
11. Consequently, it is concluded that the respondents did not violate the open meeting provisions of the FOI Act with respect to the September gatherings.
Docket #FIC 91-306 Page 3
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.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of August 26, 1992.
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission
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:
Arthur P. Meisler and Paul Wohler
c/o Arthur P. Meisler, Esq.
Flaherty, Meisler & Courtney
30 Lafayette Square Suite 116
P.O. Box 508
Vernon, CT 06066
Town of Windham, Windham First Selectman, Windham Water Commission, Windham Personnel Director, Windham Labor Counsel and Windham Corporation Counsel
c/o Nicholas F. Kepple, Esq.
Suisman, Shapiro, Wool
P.O. Box 1591
New London, CT 06320
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission