FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
against Docket #FIC1996-133
Victor J. Puia, First Selectman, Windsor Locks
Board of Selectmen; and John J. Lee, and Paul Seaha
as Members of the Windsor Locks Board of
Respondent(s) February 13, 1997
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on August 12, 1996, at which time the complainant and respondents 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of §1-18a(a), G.S.
2. By letter of complaint dated and filed April 25, 1996, the complainant alleged that at the Windsor Locks Board of Selectmen’s (“board’s”) April 23, 1996 regular meeting an executive session was added to the meeting agenda for the improper purpose of discussing “economic development issues” (“appeal”).
3. In his appeal the complainant requested that the Commission impose a civil penalty against the individual respondents, and declare all action resulting from the improper executive session null and void.
4. 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.
5. It is found that at the board’s April 23, 1996 regular meeting (“April meeting”), a motion was made and voted upon to convene in executive session for the stated purpose of discussing “Economic & Industrial Development” issues.
6. It is found that the executive session item was properly added to the April meeting agenda in accordance with the provisions of §1-21(a), G.S.
7. It is found that the complainant attended the April meeting, and immediately upon hearing the respondents’ stated purpose for convening the executive session, he questioned the legality of adding such a session to discuss “Economic & Industrial Development” issues and advised the respondents that it was not one of the permitted purposes for an executive session under the FOI Act.
8. It is found that the board’s stated purpose for convening the executive session in question failed to adequately or meaningfully identify the purpose as one for convening in executive session as set forth in §1-18a(e), G.S.
9. It is therefore concluded that the respondents violated the relevant provisions of §§1-18a(e), and 1-21(a), G.S., when they failed to adequately state the purpose of the executive session held during the April meeting.
10. The respondent contends that although the purpose of the executive session may not have been adequately stated, the discussion was proper because it concerned the potential sale or purchase of real estate by the town.
11. Section 1-18a(e)(4), G.S., in relevant part provides that an executive session may be convened to discuss the:
… selection of a site or the lease, sale or purchase of real estate by a political subdivision of the state when publicity regarding such site, lease, sale, purchase or construction would cause a likelihood of increased price until such time as all of the property has been acquired or all proceedings or transactions concerning same have been terminated or abandoned ….
12. It is found that during the executive session in question the respondents discussed the proposal by Ace Hardware to acquire fifty-two acres of town property (“proposal”).
13. It is concluded that §1-18a(e)(4), G.S., relates only to the acquisition of real estate by an applicable public agency rather than the acquisition of real estate by an entity other than a public agency.
14. It is found that the executive session discussion at the April meeting did not concern the acquisition of real estate by the town of Windsor Locks, within the meaning of §1-18a(e)(4), G.S.
15. It is therefore concluded that the executive session discussion at the April meeting was not permitted under §1-18a(e)(4), G.S., and consequently the respondents violated the provisions of §1-21(a), G.S.
16. It is further concluded that the complainant was wrongfully denied his right to attend those portions of the April meeting improperly held in executive session, in violation of §1-21(a), G.S., and that such violation was without reasonable grounds.
17. It is found that the respondents took no action on the proposal at the April meeting with the exception of authorizing the respondent first selectman to “continue negotiations with developers/owners interested in a particular piece of property in [town].”
following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the
record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. Henceforth the respondents shall
strictly comply with the executive session and open meeting requirements set
forth in §§1-18a(e)
and 1-21(a), G.S.
2. Within forty-five days of the date of mailing the notice of final decision in this case each of the named respondents shall remit to this Commission a civil penalty in the amount of fifty dollars ($50.00).
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of February 13. 1997.
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:
404 Denslow Street
Windsor Locks, CT 06096
Victor J. Puia, First Selectman, Windsor Locks Board of Selectmen; and John J. Lee, and Paul Seaha as Members of the Windsor Locks Board of Selectmen
c/o Christopher R. Stone, Esq.
Chadwick, Libby, Szilagyi & Stone
111 Founders Plaza, Suite 1403
East Hartford, CT 06108
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission