In the Matter of a Complaint by                        Final Decision


Denis O'Sullivan,




            against              Docket #FIC 92-100


Watertown Fire District,


                        Respondent                  February 24, 1993


            The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 15, 1992 and January 8, 1993, at which times the complainant and the respondent 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 respondent, its three-member fire district committee ("FDC"), and its three-member board of water commissioners ("BWC") are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.


            2.  By letter postmarked March 3, 1992, the complainant alleged that the respondents FDC and BWC violated the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act on February 3, 1992 by conducting an improper executive session at which members of the FDC and BWC and the district's superintendent and assistant superintendent were present.  He also alleged that the FDC and BWC improperly terminated the regular meeting of February 3, 1992 by adjourning directly from the executive session rather than first reconvening in public session.


            3.  It is found that on February 3, 1992, members of the FDC and BWC convened in an executive session along with the district's superintendent and assistant superintendent, during which the district's superintendent reported on matters relating to pending litigation ("Geddes litigation").


            4.  It is found that the following are parties to the Geddes litigation: Robert Geddes, Kathryn Geddes and Irena J. Holland as the plaintiffs, and the town of Watertown, the town manager of Watertown, and the respondent district and its superintendent as defendants.


            5.  It is found that the respondent was organized, incorporated and chartered as a political subdivision of the


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state by special acts of the Connecticut General Assembly and amendments thereto, which acts and amendments date from 1913 to 1974 (hereinafter collectively the "charter").


            6.  It is found that the BWC is required by charter to have its own budget and annual financial audit separate from that of the FDC, which it in fact does have.


            7.  It is found that the BWC acts in matters pertaining to potable water distribution, whereas the FDC acts in matters pertaining to sewage, zoning, and public lighting.  It is also found that the members of the FDC and BWC vote only on matters within their own group's sphere of authority.


            8.  It is found that the BWC and the FDC sometimes, but not always, conduct joint meetings.


            9.  It is found that when the BWC and FDC meet jointly, they consider a quorum to be four individuals as a matter of practice in spite of the fact that no law or charter makes such a provision.


            10.  In essence, the complainant claims that it was impermissible for the FDC and BWC to convene jointly in executive session.


            11.  The respondent district claims, however, that in a prior contested case docket #FIC 91-244, this Commission held that a joint executive session of the BWC and FDC was permissible, and, accordingly, the Commission must now find that the joint executive session of the FDC and BWC on February 3, 1992 was also permissible.  The respondent district also claims that because the FDC and BWC conducted a joint regular meeting on February 3, the two groups could permissibly enter executive session together, as a matter of right.


            12.  The Commission notes that detailed facts and evidence concerning the organizational structure and functioning of the respondent have been taken in evidence in the instant case, which evidence is supplemental to that made part of the record in contested case docket #FIC 91-244 and which facts indicate clearly that the BWC and FDC are two distinct public agencies within the respondent district.


            13.  It is found that the plaintiffs' claims in the Geddes litigation concerned storm water and sewage that overflowed and

discharged onto the Geddes property in August 1989 allegedly creating a nuisance and dangerous conditions.  It is also found that the plaintiffs' claims did not include any claims concerning potable water distribution.


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            14.  It is also found that the BWC is not a party to the pending litigation and therefore does not fall within the purpose for executive session set forth in 1-18a(e)(2), G.S.


            15.  The Commission notes that the mere fact that two public agencies conduct a joint meeting does not establish a right for them to conduct joint executive sessions absent a specific qualification under 1-18a(e), G.S., or to be present at the executive session under 1-21g(a), G.S.


            16.  The BWC claims that it was necessary to meet with the FDC in executive session in order to protect the BWC's interests with respect to the terms of a developer's agreement concerning potable water distribution.


            17.  It is found that neither the FDC nor the BWC invited members of the other to present testimony or opinion. 


            18.  It is accordingly concluded that the FDC and BWC violated the provisions of 1-18a(e)(2) and 1-21g(a), G.S., under the facts of this case.


            19.  It is found that no other agenda item remained for consideration at the February 3, 1992 meeting after the executive session in question.


            20.  It is found that during the executive session  in question, a vote was taken to adjourn the meeting itself.


            21.  It is concluded that the FDC and BWC accordingly violated the provisions of 1-21(a), G.S., by failing to vote to adjourn its February 3, 1992 regular meeting in public session.


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


            1.  The district and its FDC and BWC shall henceforth strictly comply with the provisions of 1-18(a)(e)(2), 1-21g(a), and 1-21(a), G.S.


            2.  Although not part of the complaint in this matter, the Commission notes that the minutes of the February 3, 1992 meeting do not reflect the record of votes taken to adjourn that meeting as required by 1-21(a), G.S.


Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of February 24, 1993.



                                    Debra L. Rembowski

                                    Acting Clerk of the Commission


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Denis O'Sullivan

238 North Street

Watertown, CT 06795


Watertown Fire District

c/o Atty. John H. Cassidy, Jr.

Secor, Cassidy & McPartland, P.C.

41 Church Street

P.O. Box 2818

Waterbury, CT 06723-2818



                                    Debra L. Rembowski

                                    Acting Clerk of the Commission