FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
against Docket #FIC 94-390
Superintendent of Schools, Watertown Public Schools,
Respondent August 23, 1995
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 7, 1995, 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 filed with the Commission on September 29, 1994, and supplemented by letter filed on December 12, 1994, with attachments, the complainant alleged that the respondent denied his request for a copy of the Watertown Board of Education's (hereinafter "BOE") "first offer to the Watertown Education Association (hereinafter "WEA") in the present contract negotiations."
3. It is found that the "first offer" sought by the complainant is the BOE's opening proposal to the WEA while they were negotiating for a successor teachers' contract in 1994.
4. It is concluded that the subject record is a public record within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.
5. It is found that the complainant is the president of the Watertown Oakville Taxpayer's Association ("WOTA"), that WOTA had criticized the terms of prior teachers' contracts and that for the 1994 round of teacher contract negotiations, the BOE had solicited input from WOTA.
6. It is further found that in a letter to the respondent dated June 16, 1994, the complainant submitted a list of recommended changes to the current contract and made his first request for a copy of the subject record, described in paragraph 3, above.
Docket #FIC 94-390 Page 2
7. It is found that on several occasions following the complainant's June letter, the complainant and another member of WOTA met with the respondent while negotiations over the teachers' contract were continuing.
8. It is further found that during the course of the meetings referred to in paragraph 7, above, and in response to the complainant's continued requests for the subject record, the respondent told the complainant that she would not provide the complainant with a copy of the subject record while contract negotiations were ongoing but would provide a copy when such negotiations concluded.
9. It is further found that the BOE and WEA reached agreement on a successor teacher's contract and concluded their negotiations in August 1994.
10. It is further found that by letter dated September 6 1994, the respondent informed the complainant, contrary to her earlier assurances, that she would not provide him with a copy of the subject record and for the first time informed him that she was denying his request because the subject record was not covered under the Freedom of Information (hereinafter "FOI") Act).
11. At the hearing on this matter, the respondent claimed that the subject record is exempt from disclosure under the FOI Act under 1-19(b)(9), G.S., which permits the nondisclosure of "records, reports and statements of strategy or negotiations with respect to collective bargaining."
12. It is found that the subject record is a record of negotiations within the meaning of 1-19(b)(9), G.S.
13. The complainant maintains that although the subject record is a record of negotiations, it should be disclosed because agreement on the contract terms has been reached.
14. The respondent maintains however, that records of strategy or negotiations continue to be exempt even after agreement has been reached, because nothing in the provisions of 1-19(b)(9), G.S., provides otherwise.
15. It is concluded that the subject record is exempt from disclosure under the provisions of 1-19(b)(9), G.S., and that the respondent did not violate the FOI Act by declining to disclose the subject record to the complainant.
Docket #FIC 94-390 Page 3
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The complaint is hereby dismissed.
2. Although the Commission concluded that the respondent is not required to provide the complainant with a copy of the subject record, the Commission wishes to remind the respondent, especially under the facts of this case, wherein the respondent made assurances that she would eventually provide the complainant with a copy of the subject record and the complainant believed those assurances, that the exemptions to disclosure set forth in 1-19(b), G.S., are not mandatory. The Commission therefore strongly urges the respondent to provide the complainant with a copy of the subject record in the interests of open government and ensuring the public's confidence in its dealings with public officials.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of August 23, 1995.
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 94-390 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:
Mr. Frank McHale
7 Mango Circle
Oakville, CT 06779
Superintendent of Schools
Watertown Public Schools
c/o Joseph B. Summa, Esq.
19-21 Holmes Avenue
Waterbury, CT 06702
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission