FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
against Docket #FIC 93-199
Stafford Board of Education,
Respondent March 23, 1994
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 29, 1993, 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 filed July 20, 1993, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent violated 1-21, G.S., by convening an emergency special meeting when the circumstances did not justify it.
3. It is found that the complainant was a guidance counselor employed by the respondent.
4. It is found that the respondent in September of 1991 voted to consider the termination of the complainant's contract of employment.
5. It is found that the complainant requested a hearing on the matter of his termination, and that the matter was heard before an impartial hearing panel pursuant to 10-151, G.S. (the "teacher tenure act").
6. It is found that the superintendent of schools believed at all times relevant that the respondent received the written recommendations of the hearing panel on June 21, 1993.
7. It is found that the superintendent is the chief administrative officer of the Stafford public school system.
8. It is found that the teacher tenure act requires in relevant part that a board of education seeking to terminate the contract of a tenured teacher shall give the teacher concerned its written decision within fifteen days of receipt of the written recommendation of the impartial hearing panel.
Docket #FIC 93-199 Page 2
9. It is found that the superintendent scheduled a meeting for June 28, 1993 to consider the hearing panel's report and make a decision on the teacher's contract.
10. It is found that the superintendent learned in the late afternoon on June 28, 1993 that a quorum of the respondent would not be available for that evening's scheduled meeting, and so the meeting was not held.
11. It is found that the superintendent did not know until July 6, 1993 that the fifteen days for the respondent to give the complainant written notice of its decision would end on July 6, 1993.
12. It is found that the superintendent had difficulty assembling a quorum of the respondent, due in part to the recent resignation of two of the seven members.
13. It is also found that the superintendent reasonably believed, based upon the advice of the town clerk, that a quorum of the respondent continued to be four members, notwithstanding the two resignations.
14. It is also found that the superintendent, at approximately 3:00 or 4:00 p.m. on June 28, did not attempt to schedule a meeting for June 29, 1993, because little time remained before the town clerk's office closed at 4:30 p.m.
15. It is also found that the superintendent did not attempt to schedule a meeting for June 30, 1993, because of a town meeting on the budget scheduled for that night, which required his and the respondent's attendance.
16. It is also found that the superintendent did not attempt to schedule a meeting for July 1, 1993, because of a town building committee meeting scheduled for that evening, which required his and the respondent's chairman's attendance.
17. It is also found that the superintendent did not attempt to schedule a meeting for July 2, July 3, or July 4, 1993, because the respondent had never met on a Friday or on the weekend.
18. It is also found that the superintendent did not attempt to schedule a meeting for Monday July 5, 1993, because it was a holiday.
19. It is also found that the superintendent reasonably did not take extraordinary steps to schedule a meeting on the seven days following the scheduled June 28, 1993 meeting, because he was not aware that the respondent was under a fifteen-day deadline for action, and he reasonably believed that he could not assemble a quorum of the already short-handed
Docket #FIC 93-199 Page 3
respondent on days on which there were conflicting obligations or days when the respondent did not ordinarily meet.
20. It is found that two partners of the law firm representing the respondent met on Tuesday, July 6, 1993, to discuss the teacher termination case.
21. It is found that one of the partners believed that the fifteen-day limit could be interpeted as mandatory and not directory, but that he had not before July 6, 1993 been involved in this teacher termination case.
22. It is found that the two partners then contacted the superintendent and informed him of the advisability of scheduling a meeting for that evening, even if a quorum could not be present.
23. It is found that the superintendent had not previously been informed by legal counsel of the necessity for scheduling a meeting by July 6, 1993.
24. It is found that the superintendent arranged for an emergency special meeting to be held that evening.
25. It is found that neither the public nor the complainant, nor the complainant's counsel, was given notice of the meeting.
26. It is found that three members of the respondent convened at 7:35 p.m. on July 6, 1993, deliberated upon the hearing panel's report, voted to adopt the panel's findings of fact, and voted to terminate the teacher's contract.
27. It is found that a fourth member of the respondent arrived at 8:35 p.m., at which time the respondent convened a second meeting and took the same actions described as in the immediately preceding meeting.
28. It is found that minutes of the two July 6, 1993 meetings were available within 72 hours of the meetings.
29. The complainant maintains that there was no emergency justifying the July 6, 1993 meetings.
30. The respondent in turn maintains that the superintendent, as the administrative officer responsible for scheduling the meetings, had no knowledge of the apparent necessity for action by July 6, 1993 until that day, thus justifying the calling of a meeting for that evening.
31. It is found that legal counsel were at all times available to the respondent and the superintendent.
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32. It is concluded that neither ignorance of the fifteen day deadline nor the difficulty in assemblying a quorum justified the calling of an emergency meeting on July 6, 1993.
33. It is therefore concluded that the respondent did not violate 1-21(a), G.S., by calling an emergency special meeting on July 6, 1993.
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 provisions of 1-21(a), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 23, 1994.
Elizabeth A. Leifert
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:
Mr. Thomas Burns
c/o Ronald Cordilico, Esq.
21 Oak Street, Suite 500
Hartford, CT 06106-8001
Stafford Board of Education
c/o Thomas N. Sullivan, Esq.
Sullivan, Lettick & Schoen
646 Prospect Avenue
Hartford, CT 06105-4286
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission