FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

FINAL DECISION
Docket #FIC 1996-247
February 13, 1997

In the Matter of a Complaint by Edward Peruta,Complainant
against
J. A. Camille Vatour, Superintendent, of Schools, Rocky Hill Public Schools; Michael Bocchini, Chairman, Board ofEducation, Town of Rocky Hill; Curtis Clemens, Sr.; Charles M. Wisnioski; Laurie Boske; Sondra L. Dellaripa; Lori Littmann; Glenn R. Parent; R. Jeffrey Sands; Frank Szeps; and Board of Education, Town of Rocky Hill Respondents

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 13, 1996, at which time the complainant and the 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 with the Commission on May 28, 1996, the complainant alleged that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by:

a. discussing FOI copying fees (hereinafter "copying fees") in executive session on May 2, 1996;

b. failing to notice the copying fees, and adding such fees as an item on the May 2, 1996 meeting agenda;

c. conducting business at a "retreat" on May 18, 1996 without notice to the public;

d. failing to maintain a record of the decision taken at a May 24, 1996 meeting regarding action to be taken against the Rocky Hill High School principal (hereinafter "school principal");

e. denying the complainant prompt access to records on April 29, May 3 and May 6, 1996; and

f. destroying unspecified records.

In his May 28, 1996 letter of complaint, the complainant requested that the Commission impose civil penalties upon the respondents.

3. At the hearing on this matter, the complainant withdrew the allegations described in paragraphs 2e. and 2f. of the findings, above.

4. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2a. of the findings, above, it is found that the respondent board held a regular meeting on May 2, 1996, during which it convened in executive session and discussed a legal opinion and an increase of the copying fees.

5. It is found that the discussion of the copying fees described in paragraph 4, above, was not a proper purpose for the May 2, 1996 executive session.

6. It is therefore, concluded that the respondent board violated 1-18a(e) and 1-21(a), G.S., when it discussed increasing the copying fees in the May 2, 1996 executive session.

7. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2b. of the findings, above, it is found that at the May 2, 1996 meeting, described in paragraph 4, above, and following the copying fees discussion in the executive session, the respondent board, in the public session, added the copying fees as an item on the May 2, 1996 agenda, and voted to increase such fees from twenty-five to fifty cents per page.

8. Section 1-21(a), G.S., provides in relevant part: "[U]pon the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of a public agency present and voting, any subsequent business not included in such filed agendas may be considered and acted upon at such meetings."

9. It is found that the respondent board’s decisions to add the copying fees as an item on the May 2, 1996 agenda and to increase such fees resulted from the respondent board’s improper discussion in the executive session, as described in paragraphs 5 and 6 of the findings, above.

10. It is also found that the respondent board’s decisions to add the copying fees as an item on the May 2, 1996 agenda and to increase such fees are the fruits of a poisonous tree.

11. Consequently, the respondent board’s unanimous vote to add the copying fee as an item on the May 2, 1996 agenda, though conducted in the public session, does not cure the original defect of the improper discussion of the copying fees in the executive session.

12. It is therefore, concluded that the respondent board’s decisions to add the copying fees as an item on the May 2, 1996 agenda and to increase such fees violate 1-21(a), G.S., because those decisions resulted from the respondent board’s improper discussion of the copying fees in the May 2, 1996 executive session, and did not constitute subsequent business within the meaning of 1-21(a), G.S.

13. Section 1-21i(b)(2), G.S., provides in relevant part:

The [FOI] commission may declare null and void any action taken at any meeting which a person was denied the right to attend….

14. The commission declares the respondent board’s decisions to add the copying fees as an item on the May 2, 1996 agenda and to increase such fees null and void.

15. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2c. of the findings, above, it is found that the respondent board held a retreat on May 18, 1996.

16. The sole issue the complainant raises with respect to the retreat is that the respondents, without notice to the public, improperly conducted business by discussing an issue pertaining to the school principal.

17. It is found that at the retreat described in paragraphs 15 and 16 of the findings, above, the respondents discussed an issue pertaining to the possible resignation or termination of the school principal, which matter was not publicly noticed.

18. It is therefore, concluded that the respondents violated 1-21(a), G.S., by discussing the issue pertaining to the principal without notice to the public.

19. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2d. of the findings, above, it is found that the respondent board held a special meeting on May 24, 1996, which meeting was held in executive session.

20. It is found that during the May 24, 1996 executive session, described in paragraph 19 of the findings above, the respondents agreed that the respondent superintendent should do whatever he needed to with respect to resolving the issue pertaining to the principal, which the respondent superintendent did in the days following the May 24, 1996 meeting.

21. It is found that the agreement reached and described in paragraph 20 of the findings above, amounts to a vote by the respondent board on the issue pertaining to the principal.

22. It is therefore, concluded that the respondent board violated 1-21(a), G.S., by failing to maintain a record of the vote, described in paragraph 21 of the findings, above.

23. The Commission in its discretion declines to impose civil penalties in this matter.

The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:

1. The copying fees in effect before the May 2, 1996 meeting of the respondent board shall be reinstated and shall remain in effect until any increase is properly noticed and voted upon.

2. The respondent board shall forthwith, create a record of the vote taken at the May 24, 1996 meeting, as more fully described in paragraphs 19 through 22, inclusive, of the findings, above.

3. Henceforth, the respondents shall strictly comply with the provisions of 1-18a(e) and 1-21(a), G.S.

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:

Edward Peruta
38 Parish Road
Rocky Hill, CT 06067

J.A. Camille Vatour
Superintendent of Schools
Rocky Hill Public Schools
Rocky Hill, CT 06067

Michael J. Bocchini, Chairman
Board of Education
Town of Rocky Hill
311 Charter Road
Rocky Hill, CT 06071

Curtis B. Clemens, Sr.
222 Ridgewood Drive
Rocky Hill, CT 06067

Charles Wisnioski
666 Old Main Street
Rocky Hill, CT 06067

Laurie J. Boske
18 Highland Street
Rocky Hill, CT 06067

Sondra L. Dellaripa
93 Berkshire Road
Rocky Hill, CT 06067

Lori R. Littmann
165 Catherine Drive
Rocky Hill, CT 06067

Glenn R. Parent
31 Berkshire Road
Rocky Hill, CT 06067

Jeffrey Sands
30 Stagecoach Lane
Rocky Hill, CT 06067

Frank Szeps
135 France Street
Rocky Hill, CT 06067

Board of Education
Town of Rocky Hill
Rocky Hill, CT 06067

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1996-247/FD/eal/02211997