In the Matter of a Complaint by            Final Decision


Thom Serrani,




            against              Docket #FIC 93-167


Athanasios Loter, John Marsalisi and Melvin Grove, as Members of

the Stamford Board of Ethics, and the Stamford Board of Ethics,


                        Respondents                 February 16, 1994


            The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 15, and November 8, 1993, at which times testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint were presented.


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


            1.  The individual respondents are members of the respondent board and they, as well as the respondent board of ethics, are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.


            2.  By letter of complaint dated June 11, 1993, and filed with the Commission on June 14, 1993, the complainant alleged that on May 18, 1993, the respondents held a special meeting, at which they convened in executive session for the purpose of discussing three items, one of which related to him.  However, the complainant alleged that when the respondents were asked to clarify the reason for convening an executive session to discuss him, they refused to do so, in violation of 1-21, G.S.


            3.  The complainant further alleged that at the May 18, 1993 meeting the respondents voted to reaffirm actions taken with respect to him at a February 29, 1992 special meeting (hereinafter "February meeting"), in direct violation of the Commission's final decision in Docket #FIC 92-94, Thom Serrani against Stamford Board of Ethics (hereinafter "FIC 92-94"), in which all actions taken at the February meeting concerning the complainant were declared null and void.


Docket #FIC 93-167                                     Page 2


            4.  The complainant requested the imposition of a civil penalty against the individual respondents.


            5.  The Commission takes administrative notice of the case files, records and decisions in its contested cases, dockets: #FIC 92-321, Thom Serrani against Athanasios Loter, Allen Kaltman, John Marsalisi and Melvin Grove, as Members of the Stamford Board of Ethics, and the Stamford Board of Ethics; #FIC 92-94, Thom Serrani against Stamford Board of Ethics, and #FIC 91-123, Thom Serrani against Stamford Board of Ethics.


            6.  It is found that a special meeting was held by the respondent board on May 18, 1993 (hereinafter "May meeting").  The May meeting was the first meeting of 1993 for the respondent board.


            7.         It is found that at the May meeting an executive session was called and convened for three separate purposes, the first of which was stated to be a discussion of "strategy and negotiations regarding pending claims and litigation."


            8.         It is also found that prior to the respondent's May meeting the Connecticut Supreme Court issued its decision in Serrani v. Board of Ethics, 225 Conn. 305 (1993), and at the time of the May meeting the complainant and respondents remained embroiled in litigation in superior court in Thom Serrani v. Board of Ethics of the City of Stamford, Super. Ct. J.D. Stamford/Norwalk at Stamford, No. CV-92-0122888 S.


            9.         It is further found that "matters involving [the complainant]" were discussed in executive session during the May meeting.


            10.       The complainant contends that if the discussion in executive session solely related to his litigation with the respondent board, then the respondents should have specifically referenced the subject litigation.


            11.       The complainant further alleged that in the absence of any particularized statement of reasons for convening the executive session, certain inferences may be drawn from the respondents' actions immediately following the executive session.


            12.       Specifically, the complainant claims that the respondents' action to reaffirm a vote taken by the board on February 29, 1992 (hereinafter "February vote"), to continue jurisdiction over, and the investigation of, the complainant in a matter commonly known as "E911", indicates that he was the subject of a personnel discussion relating to alleged ethical violations by him during his tenure as Mayor of Stamford.


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            13.       The respondents maintain that at the May meeting, the only discussion involving the complainant held in executive session related to the supreme court decision and the pending superior court action.


            14.       It is found further that neither the filed agenda for the respondent board's May meeting nor the motion to convene the executive session for purposes of discussing pending claims and litigation, reasonably apprised the complainant or the public that the respondents would discuss, consider or act upon particular pending litigation involving the complainant.


            15.       It is found that when the complainant's attorney asked the respondents to identify the litigation matters that were going to be discussed he was told by the chairman of the respondent board that "[he] was not at liberty to disclose [them] ... [And] [t]he statement ...on the printed agenda appears to be satisfactory and no clarification is needed at this point."


            16.       It is concluded that the respondents violated 1-21(a), G.S., by failing to reasonably apprise the public of the pending claims and/or litigation that would be discussed in executive session at the May meeting.


            17.       It is further concluded that in light of the Commission's earlier decisions in #FIC 92-321, #FIC 92-94 and #FIC 91-123, and the complainant's attorney's requests for a more specific statement of the pending matters to be discussed in executive session, the respondents' violation of 1-21(a), G.S., in this case was without reasonable grounds.


            18.       The respondents also contended that the action to reaffirm their February vote concerning the E911 matter, was their first opportunity to respond to the Commission's final decision in FIC 92-94 and properly retake the February vote because it was their first meeting in 1993.

            19.       The complainant has not alleged that he did not have adequate notice that the respondents intended to reconsider the February vote at the May meeting, and it is found that the May meeting agenda should have been sufficient to communicate to the complainant and the public that there would be a "discussion and vote on the reaffirmation of the [February vote]."


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            20.       It is further found that although the reaffirmation vote immediately followed the executive session, the facts in this case are insufficient to suggest or compel the inference that the respondents discussed the reaffirmation vote during the executive session in violation of 1-18a(e) and 1-21(a), G.S.


            The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended

on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:


            1.         The Commission imposes a civil penalty against each of the individual respondents in the amount of twenty-five dollars ($25.00), for a total civil penalty of seventy-five dollars ($75.00).    The aforementioned civil penalty shall be remitted to the Commission within forty-five days of the date of mailing of the notice of final decision in this case.


            2.         The respondents shall henceforth strictly comply with the requirements of 1-18a(e)(2) and 1-21, G.S.


Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of February 16, 1994.



                                    Elizabeth A. Leifert

                                    Acting Clerk of the Commission


Docket #FIC 93-167                                       Page 5





Thom Serrani

c/o Carolyn Alexander, Esq.

James R. Fogarty, Esq.

Epstein & Fogarty

733 Summer Street

Stamford, CT 06901-1093


Athanasios Loter, John Marsalisi and Melvin Grove as Members of the Stamford Board of Ethics and Stamford Board of Ethics

c/o Thomas F. Maxwell, Jr., Esq.

Marsh, Day & Calhoun

2507 Post Road

Southport, CT 06490



                                    Elizabeth A. Leifert

                                    Acting Clerk of the Commission