FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by

FINAL DECISION

Linda Kellogg, Raymond Ouellet, and Donald Alfiero,  

Complainant

 

against

Docket #FIC 1996-423

President, City Council, City of Norwich, and City Council, City of Norwich,  

Respondents

March 19, 1997

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 30, 1996, at which time the complainants and the respondents 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 1996-286, Sheila Borgstrom and the Norwich Bulletin against City Council City of Norwich.

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 dated July 23, 1996, and filed on July 29, 1996, the complainants appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by conducting an unnoticed meeting on July 8, 1996, from which they were excluded, for the review and discussion of development plans for the downtown with members of the Mashantucket Tribal Nation ("MTN"), a developer in downtown Norwich.

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

4. It is found that the respondents 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 respondents contend 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 council 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 council’s supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power.

9. It is therefore concluded that the respondents’ 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 respondents had supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power.

10. It is also concluded that the July 8, 1996 meeting constituted a special meeting for which the respondents failed to notify the complainants, who are members of the respondent council, as required by 1-21(a), G.S.

11. With respect to the respondents’ 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.

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

The 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 provisions of 1-21(a), G.S.

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:

Linda Kellogg
130 Laura Boulevard
Norwich, CT 06360

Raymond Ouellet
38 Hunters Avenue
Taftville, CT 06380

Donald Alfiero
43 Bayberry Hill Road
Norwich, CT 06360

Konstant W. Morell, Esq.
121 Broadway
Norwich, CT 06360

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1996-423/FD/eal/03251997