FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Richard Gereg and Laurel Hill Association,
against Docket #FIC 94-98
Eugene Golaszewski, Stanley Parker, Charles Keller, Charles
Garda, Jr., Joan Gould, John Martino, Jr. and Brookfield
Respondents March 8, 1995
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 8, 1994, 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. The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.
2. By letter of complaint filed March 29, 1994 and postmarked March 25, 1994, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated 1-21g, G.S., by improperly inviting certain individuals to attend the entirety of a February 24, 1994 executive session.
3. It is found that the complainant Laurel Hill Association was formed to oppose a quarrying operation in the town of Brookfield, and that the complainant Gereg is the president of the Association.
4. It is found that the respondent Zoning Commission issued a cease and desist order against the quarrying operation in October, 1993.
5. It is found that, when the quarrying operation did not comply with the cease and desist order, the Zoning Commission obtained an injunction in Superior Court against further operations at the quarry.
6. It is found that the Zoning Commission held a regular meeting on February 24, 1994.
Docket #FIC 94-98 Page 2
7. It is found that the Zoning Commisison convened in executive session at that meeting to negotiate a settlement with the quarrying operation.
8. It is found that litigation was pending between the Zoning Commission and the quarrying operation on February 24, 1994, within the meaning of 1-18a(e)(2) and 1-18h, G.S.
9. It is found that the respondents invited four representatives from the quarrying operation to attend the executive session: two of the quarry's attorneys, the quarry's chief business officer, and the quarry's engineer.
10. It is found that the four individuals identified in paragraph 9, above, were present during the entirety of the executive session, including a vote by the respondents.
11. The complainants maintain that 1-21g(a), G.S., prohibits the respondents from inviting their adversary into an executive session convened to negotiate the settlement of pending litigation.
12. Section 1-21g(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:
At an executive session of a public agency, attendance shall be limited to members of said body and persons invited by said body to present testimony or opinion pertinent to matters before said body provided that such persons' attendance shall be limited to the period for which their presence is necessary to present such testimony or opinion ....
13. It is concluded that nothing in 1-21g(a), G.S., prohibits the attendance of an adversary during an executive session convened to negotiate the settlement of pending litigation.
14. The complainants also maintain that each of the four individuals should only have been permitted to attend the executive session to answer specific questions addressed to him individually, and then required to leave.
15. In particular, the complainants maintain that the four individuals should not have been permitted to remain in the executive session while the respondents voted concerning the settlement of the pending litigation.
16. It is found that there was no need for the four individuals to provide testimony or opinion while the respondents voted.
17. It is therefore concluded that the respondents violated 1-21g(a), G.S., by permitting the four individuals to
Docket #FIC 94-98 Page 3
remain in the executive session while the respondent voted concerning the settlement.
18. It is also found that, except for their presence during the respondents' vote, the four individuals were permitted to attend the executive session only for the period for which their presence was necessary to present such testimony or opinion pertinent to the settlement of the pending litigation.
19. In their complaint, the complainants requested that a civil penalty be imposed against the respondents, and that the actions taken at the executive session be declared null and void.
20. It is found that the essence of the complaint is that negotiation between the respondents and the quarrying operation was not conducted publicly, and the complainants were not permitted to attend.
21. It is found that permitting individuals from the quarrying operation to be present during the vote was not shown to have substantially harmed the complainants.
22. The Commission in its discretion therefore declines to issue a null and void order in this case.
23. It is also found that the violation of 1-21g(a), G.S., was not without reasonable grounds, and the Commission therefore declines to issue civil penalties against the respondents.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. Henceforth the respondents shall strictly comply with the requirements of 1-21g, G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 8, 1995.
Debra L. Rembowski
Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 94-98 Page 4
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:
RICHARD GEREG AND LAUREL HILL ASSOCIATION
c/o Nancy Burton, Esq.
147 Cross Highway
Redding Ridge, CT 06876
EUGENE GOLASZEWSKI, STANLEY PARKER, CHARLES KELLER, CHARLES GARDA, JR., JOAN GOULD, JOHN MARTINO, JR. AND BROOKFIELD ZONING COMMISSION
c/o Francis J. Collins, Esq.
Cutsumpas, Collins, Hannafin, Garamella, Jaber & Tuozzolo
148 Deer Hill Avenue
P.O. Box 440
Danbury, CT 06810
Debra L. Rembowski
Clerk of the Commission