FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Michael Vandenbroeck and Richard Woodburn,
against Docket #FIC 95-148
Redding Conservation Commission,
Respondent April 24, 1996
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 20, 1996, at which time the complainants and 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 and filed with this Commission via facsimile transmission on May 3, 1995, the complainants alleged that in violation of 1-21(a), G.S., the respondent purposely failed to inform the public that at its April 4, 1995 regular meeting ("April meeting") it would discuss and vote upon: a) an amendment to a cease and desist order issued to Costa Stergue on October 18, 1990 ("desist order"), and b) settlement of Redding Conservation Commission v. Costa Stergue (CV 91 0304061) ("Stergue case").
3. Alleging a wilful violation, the complainants requested that the Commission declare the respondent's decision to accept an amended desist order in settlement of the Stergue case, null and void.
4. It is found that the complainants in this matter were granted party status in the Stergue case by virtue of their allegation that their property rights, including their right to a source of potable water, have been wilfully interfered with by Mr. Stergue as a result of his alleged illegal diversion of watercourses and drainage of wetlands without the permits required by law.
Docket #FIC 95-148 Page 2
5. It is found that the complainants have actively participated in the Stergue case and settlement discussions relating to the case, where possible.
6. It is found that the respondent held an April meeting.
7. It is found that the agenda for the April meeting ("agenda") indicated that there would be a discussion of the revised planting plan for "Application 94-09V, Costa Stergue (owner), Gregory White (agent)," but failed to indicate that there would be any discussion or action taken on either the desist order or the Stergue case.
8. With respect to business not included on an agenda for a regular meeting, 1-21(a), G.S., states that "[u]pon an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of a public agency present and voting, any subsequent business not included in such filed agenda may be considered and acted upon at such meeting." (Emphasis added.)
9. It is found that the respondent took no action to add the desist order or the Stergue case to the agenda.
10. It is found that during the course of its April meeting the respondent considered and acted upon the desist order and Stergue case.
11. The complainants maintain that they would have attended the April meeting had they known the respondent would consider the desist order and Stergue case and knowing this the respondent purposely did not include the desist order or the Stergue case on the agenda.
12. The respondent concedes that the April meeting agenda was not reflective of the business discussed or transacted, but claims that there was no deliberate attempt to subvert or violate the complainants' rights under 1-21(a), G.S.
13. The respondent further concedes that the amended desist order, which contained as one of its terms an authorization to stipulate to settle the Stergue case, was prepared well in advance of the April meeting and then brought to that meeting by counsel for the respondent.
14. Given the facts and circumstances of this case, it is found that neither the desist order nor the Stergue case arose subsequent to the preparation of the agenda.
Docket #FIC 95-148 Page 3
15. In light of the substantial interest of the complainants in the desist order, and their otherwise active participation in the Stergue case, it is found that the omission of both of these items from the agenda was not simply an oversight on the part of the respondent.
16. Upon the facts of this case, it is concluded that the desist order and the Stergue case did not constitute "subsequent business" within the meaning of 1-21(a), G.S., and it is therefore concluded that the respondent improperly considered and acted upon both matters at the April meeting, in violation of 1-21(a), G.S.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The actions taken by the respondent at the April meeting with respect to the desist order and the Stergue case are hereby declared null and void.
2. Henceforth the respondent shall act in strict compliance with the requirements expressly set forth in 1-21(a), G.S.
3. Within five days of the date of mailing the notice of final decision in this case, the respondent shall cause a copy of the Commission's final decision in this case to be conspicuously posted in the place where its meeting notices and agendas are posted, for a period of not less than sixty (60) days.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of April 24, 1996.
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 95-166 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:
Michael Vandenbroeck and Richard Woodburn
c/o Nancy Burton, Esq.
147 Cross Highway
Redding Ridge, CT 06876
Redding Conservation Commission
c/o Michael N. Lavalle, Esq.
850 Main Street
Bridgeport, CT 06604
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission