FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
David J. Drury and The Hartford Courant,
against Docket #FIC 94-350
West Hartford Board of Education,
Respondent August 9, 1995
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 9, 1995, at which time the complainants 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 October 7, 1994, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent held an illegal telephone meeting on the weekend of September 24, 1994, at which it reached a consensus not to offer the superintendent of schools a new contract.
3. It is found that the respondent voted at the end of June, 1994 not to renew the superintendent of school's contract, and voted instead to negotiate a new contract.
4. It is found that, in the months of July, August and September, 1994, the respondents and the then superintendent of schools met to negotiate the terms of a new contract of employment.
5. It is found that the respondents and the superintendent last met on September 21, 1994 to continue to negotiate terms.
6. It is found that the chairwoman of the respondent polled the respondent's members on the weekend of September 24, 1994 and the following Monday and determined that a majority would not support a new contract.
7. It is found that the chairwoman of the respondent and two other members met with the superintendent before the respondent's September 26, 1994 meeting to inform him that the
Docket #FIC 94-350 Page 2
respondent would meet in executive session that evening and likely agree to end the negotiations.
8. It is found that the respondent in fact met on September 26, 1994 and agreed not to continue to negotiate.
9. The complainant maintains that the telephone poll was a meeting within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S.
10. The respondent maintains that there is no prohibition against the respondent board members consulting with each other and concluding that negotiations were not progressing satisfactorily; and there was no contract after June, 1994 that was subject to public discussion or vote, and therefore no action for this Commission to declare null and void.
11. Section 1-18a(b), G.S., provides in relevant part:
"Meeting" means any hearing or other proceeding of a public agency, any convening or assembly of a quorum of a multimember public agency, and any communication by or to a quorum of a multimember public agency, whether in person or by means of electronic equipment, to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power. "Meeting" shall not include: ... any chance meeting, or a social meeting neither planned nor intended for the purpose of discussing matters relating to official business ....
12. It is found that the chairwoman of the respondent communicated with a quorum of the respondent.
13. It is found that that communication was by means of electronic equipment.
14. It is found that that communication was to discuss whether to continue negotiations between the respondent and the superintendent.
15. It is found that the continuation of negotiations was a matter over which the respondent had supervision and control.
16. It is found that the communication between the chairwoman and the other members of the respondent was not a chance or social meeting, and was intended for the purpose of discussing official business.
17. It is therefore concluded that the telephone poll conducted by the chairwoman of the respondent's membership was a meeting within the meeting of 1-18a(b), G.S.
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18. Section 1-21(a), G.S., requires in relevant part that notices and minutes be filed for all meetings of public agencies.
19. It is found that the respondent filed no notice or minutes of the telephone poll.
20. It is therefore concluded that the respondent violated 1-21(a), G.S., by conducting a meeting without filing a notice and minutes.
21. It is found that the respondent ratified its decision not to proceed with contract negotiations at a properly convened meeting and executive session on September 26, 1994.
22. The Commission in its discretion therefore declines to declare the results of the telephone poll null and void.
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(b) and 1-21(a), G.S.
2. The respondent shall forthwith create and file minutes of the telephone poll described in the findings, above.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of August 9, 1995.
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. David J. Drury
The Hartford Courant
56 East Main Street
Avon, CT 06001
West Hartford Board of Education
c/o Margorie Wilder, Esq.
50 South Main Street
West Hartford, CT 06107
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission