FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
against Docket #FIC 95-96
West Haven Redevelopment Agency,
Respondent December 13, 1995
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 19, 1995, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, 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 dated March 31, 1995, and filed April 3, 1995, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent: (a) unlawfully convened in executive session at its March 6, 1995 regular meeting ("March meeting"), and (b) denied the complainant's request to inspect the minutes and/or transcript of the executive session.
3. Section 1-21(a), G.S., states that a public agency may convene in executive session at an otherwise public meeting "upon an affirmative vote of two-thirds of [agency] members ... present and voting, ... and stating the reasons for such executive session as defined in [1-18a(e), G.S.]."
4. It is found that the respondent held a March meeting at which a motion was made and unanimously passed to convene in executive session.
5. It is found that the respondent convened in executive session to discuss "legal matters".
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6. It is found that "legal matters" does not sufficiently state or identify a proper purpose for an executive session as required by 1-21(a), G.S., and defined in 1-18a(e), G.S.
7. The respondent maintains that the "legal matters" necessitating the executive session related to issues raised by the complainant concerning the impact of proposed zoning changes on an existing redevelopment plan.
8. Specifically, the respondent argues that the complainant sought an opinion regarding the legality of the proposed zoning changes and thus consideration by the respondent of action to enforce or implement legal relief or a legal right, within the meaning of "pending litigation" as defined in 1-18a(h)(3), G.S.
9. It is found that the complainant attended the March meeting to ask the respondent to examine the impact of the newly proposed zoning regulations on an existing redevelopment plan for West Haven.
10. Nevertheless, it is found that the amended minutes of the March meeting which recorded the discussion immediately prior to the executive session, reflect little more than an attempt by the complainant to persuade the respondent to adopt its interpretation of the existing redevelopment plan.
11. The respondent concedes that there was no existing litigation involving it and the complainant at the time of the March meeting.
12. Therefore, it is found that there was no actual or threatened "pending litigation" against the respondent as that term is defined in 1-18a(h), G.S., when the executive session was convened.
13. It is further found that the respondent did not convene in executive session for a proper purpose as set forth in 1-18a(e), G.S.
14. It is therefore concluded that the respondent violated 1-18a(e) and 1-21, G.S., by convening in executive session at its March meeting.
15. Section 1-21g(a), G.S., in relevant part states that the minutes of an executive session shall "disclose all persons who are in attendance except job applicants ..."
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16. It is found that the minutes of the respondent's March meeting do not identify the persons who attended the executive session.
17. It is concluded that in failing to identify those persons in attendance at its executive session the respondent violated the provisions of 1-21g(a), G.S.
18. It is found that the minutes of the respondent's March meeting were not available for public inspection or copying within seven days of the date of that meeting, as required by 1-21(a), G.S.
19. It is further found that the minutes of the respondent's March meeting and executive session were provided to the complainant on or about April 20, 1995.
20. It is concluded that the respondent failed to record and file the minutes of its March meeting and executive session in accordance with the provisions of 1-21(a) and 1-21g(a), G.S.
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(e), 1-21(a) and 1-21g, G.S., with respect to convening, conducting, and recording the minutes for an executive session.
2. The Commission notes further that if "approved" minutes are unavailable to the public within seven days of the date of the regular meeting to which they refer, unapproved or draft minutes should be available to the public, and clearly identified as such.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of December 13, 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:
c/o Timothy J. Lee, Esq.
Fasano and Ippolito
388 Orange Street
New Haven, CT 06511
West Haven Redevelopment Agency
c/o Mark A. Milano, Esq.
Milano & Wanat
P.O. Box 505
West Haven, CT 06516
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission