FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Neighbors Against the Mall,
against Docket #FIC 92-230
Torrington Planning and Zoning Commission
Respondent April 14, 1993
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 10, 1992, at which time 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 is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.
2. By letter of complaint dated July 9, 1992 and filed July 10, 1992, the complainant appealed to the Commission and alleged that the respondent violated the provisions of the Freedom of Information (hereinafter "FOI") Act with regard to an executive session it convened during the course of its June 10, 1992 meeting.
3. More specifically, the complainant alleged that the respondent:
a. convened in executive session for the stated purpose of discussing personnel matters, when in fact other discussions occurred; and
b. allowed persons other than members of the respondent to remain in attendance during the course of the executive session.
4. It is found that the respondent held a meeting on
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June 10, 1992.
5. It is found that at the time of the June meeting, an application from the complainant was pending before the respondent, petitioning it to change the zone of a parcel of land from commercial/industrial restricted to industrial.
6. It is found that the parcel of land that was the subject of the complainant's application, had previously been approved by the respondent for the construction of a shopping mall and that if the respondent approved the complainant's application, the shopping mall may not have been built on the subject parcel.
7. It is found that prior to considering the complainant's application and the other agenda items for the June 10, 1992 meeting, the respondent convened an executive session at the request of the mayor, "regarding a personnel matter."
8. It is found that in addition to the members of the respondent, Torrington's mayor, city planner and corporation counsel remained in attendance during the executive session.
9. It is found that pursuant to Torrington's City Charter, the mayor, city engineer and director of public works are non-voting members of the respondent.
10. Section 1-21(a), G.S., requires that "the meetings of all public agencies, except executive sessions as defined in subsection (c) of subsection 1-18a, shall be open to the public."
11. Section 1-18a(e)(1), G.S., permits a public agency to convene an executive session for:
"discussion concerning the appointment, employment performance, evaluation, health or dismissal of a public officer or employee, provided that such individual may require that discussion be held at an open meeting."
12. The respondent maintains that the purpose of the executive session was to discuss various complaints received by the mayor from developers concerning the city planner and his strict adherence to zoning regulations as well as a discussion concerning the members of the respondent and the direction in terms of policy that the respondent should take for the future.
13. It is found that at the executive session in question, the mayor expressed her dissatisfaction with the city planner
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and members of the respondent because of the complaints she had received from developers and their attorneys that the respondent was making it too difficult for them to develop property in Torrington.
14. It is found that the city planner is neither a member nor the exclusive employee of, the respondent.
15. It is found that sometime during the executive session, the mayor informed one of the alternate members of the respondent that she was removing her from her position on another commission.
16. It is found that sometime following the executive session, the respondent considered and voted to deny the complainant's application.
17. It is found that the mayor's address to the respondent concerning the city planner, the policies and direction of the respondent and her expressions of dissatisfaction with both the city planner and the members of the respondent in general did not fall within the provisions of 1-18a(e)(1), G.S., and were not proper purposes for an executive session of the respondent.
18. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 3a., above, it is therefore concluded that the respondent violated the provisions of 1-21(a) and 1-18a(e), G.S., when it convened in executive session at its June 10, 1992 meeting.
19. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 3b., above, it is found that the respondent failed to prove that the non-agency members present during the executive session were invited to present testimony or opinion as provided in 1-21g, G.S., or that their attendance was limited to the time necessary to provide said testimony or evidence.
20. It is therefore concluded that the respondent violated the provisions of 1-21g, G.S., by allowing individuals other than the members of the respondent to attend the executive session in question.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. Henceforth, the respondent shall strictly comply with the requirements of 1-18a(e), 1-21(a) and 1-21g, G.S.
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Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of April 14, 1993.
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission
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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:
NEIGHBORS AGAINST THE MALL
c/o Atty. Maureen E. Donahue
Howd, Lavieri & Finch
682 Main Street
P.O. Box 1080
Winsted, CT 06098-1080
TORRINGTON PLANNING AND ZONING COMMISSION
c/o Atty. Albert G. Vasko
140 Main Street
Torrington, CT 06790
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission