FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
John F. Warton,
against Docket #FIC1996-084
Board of Education, Town of New Fairfield,
Respondent December 11, 1996
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 17, 1996, at which time the complainant and 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 dated March 21, 1996 and filed March 26, 1996, the complainant alleged that: (a) at the respondent’s meeting held on February 22, 1996 (“February meeting”) the respondent board introduced proposed changes to a special education handbook without an agenda item specifically covering said topic; (b) at the respondent’s February meeting and March 21, 1996 meeting (“March meeting”), executive sessions were improperly called and convened; and (c) attendance at the executive sessions convened at the February and March meetings was not limited to agency members, in violation of §1-21g., G.S.
3. The respondent contends that: a) at its February meeting the personnel policies committee gave a report on new policy regarding special education, but no discussion took place; b) it voted to convene in executive session at its February and March meetings to discuss personnel matters, specifically reductions in teaching staff; and c) the superintendent of schools did attend and was present throughout the executive sessions convened at its February and March meetings to give his opinion on the effects of any reductions in teaching staff.
4. It is found that the complainant has a continual request to the respondent for the provision of advance notification of any meeting at which special education matters are to be considered, discussed or acted upon.
5. It is found that on or about February 20, 1996, the complainant reviewed the agenda that had been posted in town hall for the respondent’s February meeting but the agenda for that meeting listed no special education item.
6. It is found that on or about February 20, 1996, the complainant called the respondent’s offices and asked if special education matters would be considered or discussed at the February meeting.
7. It is found that the complainant was advised by the respondent’s office staff, and by the acting director of pupil services who implements special education policies, that special education matters would not be discussed at the February meeting.
8. It is found that at the respondent’s February meeting “Changes to [the] Proposed Special Ed Policy, 1st Reading” was discussed under an agenda item listed as “Committee Reports: Personnel/Policies.”
9. It is found that the February meeting agenda did not adequately apprise the public that the respondent’s personnel policies committee would report on policy regarding special education matters.
10. It is concluded that the February meeting agenda did not sufficiently identify the business to be transacted or considered at that meeting as it related to special education policy, in violation of §1-21(a), G.S.
11. It is found that executive sessions were convened at the respondent’s February and March meetings.
12. Section 1-21(a), G.S., states in relevant part that:
[a] public agency may hold an
executive session as defined in subsection (e) of
section 1-18a, upon an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of such body
present and voting, taken at a public meeting and stating the reasons for such
executive session, as defined in said section.
13. Section 1-18a(e), G.S., states in relevant part that an executive session may be convened to discuss, among other things,
… the appointment, employment, performance, evaluation, health or dismissal of a public officer or employee, provided that such individual may require that discussion be held at an open meeting ….
14. It is found that at the executive session held during its February and March meetings, the respondent discussed the reduction of its teaching force through the elimination of positions or layoffs, but the respondent did not discuss the appointment, employment, performance, evaluation, health or dismissal of individual teachers.
15. It is concluded, therefore, that the respondent did not convene in executive session for a proper purpose as set forth in §1-18a(e), G.S., and therefore violated §§1-18a(e) and 1-21(a), G.S., by convening in executive session at its February and March meetings.
16. In light of paragraph 15 of the findings, above, the Commission need not reach the question of whether the superintendent’s presence throughout the executive sessions convened at the respondent’s February and March meetings was necessary and proper since the executive sessions were convened in violation of §§1-18a(e) and 1-21(a), G.S.
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 executive session and open meeting requirements set forth in §§1-18a(e) and 1-21(a), G.S.
2. The respondent shall conspicuously post a copy of the final decision in this case in the respondent board’s office for a period of not less than thirty calendar days.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of December 11, 1996.
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
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:
John F. Warton
8 Indian Hill Lane
New Fairfield, CT 06812
Board of Education, Town of New Fairfield
c/o Marc L. Zaken, Esq.
Cummings & Lockwood
PO Box 120
Stamford, CT 06904-0120
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission