FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

FINAL DECISION
Docket #FIC1996-227
May 28, 1997
In the Matter of a Complaint by Sgt. William T. Mathiasen and Sgt. Gerald Peters, Complainant(s)
against
Paul Vayer, Town Manager, Town of Winchester; and Anthony Paige, Acting Chief of Police, Winsted Police Department, Town of Winchester, Respondent(s)

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 12, 1996, at which time the complainants and respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts, and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. The case caption has been amended to correctly identify the respondents in this matter.

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 June 8, 1996 and filed with the Commission on June 12, 1996, the complainants alleged that the respondents failed to comply with their requests to have their June 4, 1996 disciplinary hearings open to the public, and asked that the Commission impose civil penalties against the respondents.

3. It is found that the complainants were the subjects of complaints concerning which the respondent chief met with each complainant prior to imposing discipline on March 26, 1996 and June 4, 1996.

4. It is found that when the respondent chief met with each complainant on March 26, 1996, the sessions were held publicly.

5. It is found, however, that when the respondent chief met with each complainant on June 4, 1996, he declined to hold the sessions publicly.

6. It is found that both complainants were disciplined on June 4, 1996 ("disciplinary action") by the respondent chief, and in accordance with article 16, 3 of the collective bargaining agreement between the town and the police union, each complainant filed a grievance with the respondent town manager to appeal the chief’s disciplinary action.

7. The respondents contend that when the respondent chief met with each complainant, it was not a meeting of a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S., but rather (a) an administrative meeting of a single-member public agency; and that it constituted (b) strategy or negotiations with respect to collective bargaining so that 1-21(a), G.S., is inapplicable.

8. Section 1-18a(b), G.S., provides that:

(b) "Meeting" means any hearing or other proceeding of a public agency … to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power. "Meeting" shall not include: … strategy or negotiations with respect to collective bargaining; …[and] an administrative or staff meeting of a single-member public agency…."

9. It is found that because the disciplinary action was subject to a grievance review by a non-police department town agency, the town manager, the June 9, 1996 sessions between the complainants and the respondent chief constituted administrative meetings of a single-member public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S.

10. It is accordingly concluded that the subject disciplinary sessions were not "hearings" or "proceedings" of the Winsted Police Department within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S.

11. Therefore, under the facts of this case, it is concluded that the respondent chief did not violate the complainants’ rights under 1-21(a), G.S.

12. It is also found that the complainants failed to allege or prove a violation of the Freedom of Information Act by the respondent town manager.

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

1. The complaint is hereby dismissed.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 28, 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:

Sgt. William T. Mathiasen
107 Birdsall Street
Winsted, CT 06098

Sgt. Gerald Peters
Box 33
210 Sandy Brook Road
Colebrook, CT 06021

Paul Vayer, Town Manager, Town of Winchester; and Anthony Paige, Acting Chief of Police, Winsted Police Department, Town of Winchester
c/o Kevin F. Nelligan, Esq.
PO Box 1045
117 Main Street
Canaan, CT 06018

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission

FIC1996-227/FD/eal/06061997