FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by

FINAL DECISION

Sheila Borgstrom and The Norwich Bulletin,  

Complainant

 

against

Docket #FIC 1996-286

City Council, City of Norwich,  

Respondent

March 19, 1997

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 30, 1996, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. This matter was consolidated for hearing with contested case docket #FIC 1996-423, Linda Kellogg, Raymond Ouellet, and Donald Alfiero against President, City Council, City of Norwich, and City Council, City of Norwich.

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 July 15, 1996, and filed on July 17, 1996, the complainants appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by conducting a secret or unnoticed meeting on July 8, 1996. At the hearing into this matter, the complainants requested the imposition of civil penalties against the respondent.

It is found that on July 8, 1996, a quorum of the respondent met with members of the MTN for the purpose of promoting and furthering the relationships between the respondent and the MTN and to streamline the building permitting process on the development of downtown Norwich.

It is found that the respondent did not schedule this meeting as a regular meeting, did not file notice of this meeting as a special meeting, and did not otherwise comply with the open meetings provisions of 1-21(a), G.S.

5. The respondent contends that with respect to the July 8, 1996 meeting:

the complainants failed to prove that the meeting was planned for business and was not a social gathering;

the complainants failed to prove that matters over which the respondent has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power were discussed; and

this Commission has no jurisdiction over who visits tribal lands.

6. Section 1-18a(b), G.S., in relevant part states:

"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….

7. It is found that the respondent has supervision control, jurisdiction or advisory power over issues of eminent domain, the authority to waive building and permitting fees, and over its relationship with other entities such as the MTN.

8. It is found that the July 8, 1996 meeting was neither planned as, nor actually was, a social meeting unrelated to matters concerning the respondent’s supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power.

9. It is concluded that the respondent’s meeting of July 8, 1996 was not a mere social gathering, but rather was a meeting within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S., during which matters were discussed over which the respondent had supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power.

10. With respect to the respondent’s argument described in paragraph 5c., above, it is found that under the provisions of the FOI Act, this Commission has jurisdiction over meetings of public agencies wherever held, and the characterization of such meetings as visits to tribal lands does not diminish or eliminate that jurisdiction.

11. It is therefore concluded that the July 8, 1996 meeting constituted a special meeting and that the respondent violated 1-21(a), G.S., by failing to comply with the notice and other provisions of that statute with respect to such meeting.

12. It is also concluded that the foregoing violations were without reasonable grounds, with the meaning of 1-21I(b)(2), G.S.

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

1. The respondent, and its individual members, shall show cause why civil penalties should not be imposed in this matter at a further hearing to be noticed and held by the Commission.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 19, 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:

Sheila Borgstrom and The Norwich Bulletin
66 Franklin Street
Norwich, CT 06360

City Council, City of Norwich
c/o Konstant W. Morell, Esq.
121 Broadway
Norwich, CT 06360

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1996-286/FD/eal/03251997