FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Jim Sweeney and Cablevision News 12,
against Docket #FIC 95-53
Superintendent of Schools, Bridgeport Public Schools,
Respondent December 27, 1995
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 19 and November 3, 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 dated February 27, 1995 and filed March 2, 1995, the complainants appealed to the Commission and alleged that the respondent excluded them from a public meeting in violation of the Freedom of Information Act (hereinafter "FOIA").
3. It is found that on February 27, 1995, the respondent met for approximately two hours with a group of students, parents and their attorney concerning the respondent's decision to disqualify Harding High School's basketball team from competition in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference (hereinafter "FCIAC") tournament because of an altercation that occurred during a basketball game.
4. It is found that the parents of the students involved were concerned that the respondent's decision might have been racially motivated and invited the complainants to attend the conference but the respondent did not permit them to attend.
#FIC 95-53 Page 2
5. It is found that the following individuals also attended the conference: the Assistant Superintendent Daniel Shamus; Harding High School Principal Edward Goldstone; State Senator Alvin Penn in his capacity as Affirmative Action Officer for the city; the Rev. Vernon Thompson in his capacity as Director of Human Resources for the city; Eugene O'Neill, Director of School Security; and the Athletic Director of Harding High School.
6. It is found that a school videotape of the game in question, which would likely have revealed the identity of the participants in the altercation, disappeared the day following the incident.
7. The respondent maintains that he hoped to elicit information during the conference concerning either the whereabouts of the tape or identifying the participants in the altercation.
8. It is found that as a result of the conference, the team was again permitted to participate in the FCIAC tournament and that no disciplinary or law enforcement action was taken against any student.
9. The respondent claims that the conference was not a "meeting" under the FOIA because it was an administrative or staff meeting of the respondent; or, in the alternative, if it was a "meeting", it was not required to be open to the public because: (1) it was a parent/teacher conference; (2) it concerned potential disciplinary or penal action against students; (3) it may have revealed student names exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(11), G.S.; (4) it may have revealed records exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(3)(C) and (E), G.S.; and (5) it may have revealed student records in violation of 10-15b and 10-154a, G.S., and 20 U.S.C. 1232g.
10. Section 1-18a(b), G.S., provides, in pertinent 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 ... to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power. "Meeting" shall not include: ... an administrative or staff meeting of a single-member public agency...(Emphasis added.)
#FIC 95-53 Page 3
12. The complainant contends that the conference was subject to the open meeting requirements of the FOIA because of the number of officials in attendance. However, it is found that the other administrative and city officials who attended the conference do not comprise any identifiable public agency.
13. It is found that the respondent is a single-member public agency and tht the subject conference was an administrative meeting of the respondent.
14. It is concluded therefore that the subject conference was not a "meeting" within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S., and that the respondent did not violate the open meetings provisions of the FOIA under the facts of this case.
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.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of December 27, 1995.
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 95-53 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:
Jim Sweeney and Cablevision News 12
c/o Audrey Honig
28 Cross Street
Norwalk, CT 06851
Superintendent of Schools, Bridgeport Public Schools
c/o John Barton, Esq.
Office of City Attorney
202 State Street
Bridgeport, CT 06604
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission