FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
Docket #FIC 1996-254
May 28, 1997
In the Matter of a Complaint by Alexandra Breslin,Complainant
First Selectman, Town of Bethany and Inland Wetlands Commission, Town of Bethany, Respondents
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 28, 1997, 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 Section 1-18a(a), G.S.
2. By letter dated October 12, 1996, and postmarked on October 14, 1996, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act:
a. by holding an illegal meeting of the respondent commission on September 13, 1996;
b. by the respondent first selectman holding public documents "in his personal files, outside of Town Hall"; and
c. by changing the meeting time of the board of selectmens meeting of October 15, 1996.
3. It is found that the complainant received notice in fact of the September 13, 1996 meeting, which is the subject of the alleged FOI violation described at paragraph 2.a., above, on September 14, 1996.
4. Pursuant to the provisions of § 1-21i(b)(1), G.S., the complainant has established jurisdiction with respect to the allegations described at paragraph 2.a., above, because her complaint was postmarked within thirty days of the date when she received notice in fact of the alleged unnoticed or secret meeting.
5. It is concluded that, pursuant to the provisions of § 7-103, G.S., Malcolm Evans had resigned from the respondent commission, effective June 17, 1996. When, at the request of the respondent first selectman, Mr. Evans met with the respondent commission at various of its meetings subsequent to June 17, 1996, Mr. Evans was doing so as an informal counselor to and not as a member of the respondent commission.
6. Section 1-18a(b), G.S., states in pertinent part:
"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, whether in person or by means of electronic equipment, to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power. [emphasis added]
7. It is found that the respondent commission is a five member agency and that the only full member of the respondent commission who attended the September 13, 1996 meeting, which is the subject of the allegation described at paragraph 2.a., above, was Charles Famularo. Alternate member Robert Brinton, Jr. also attended, as did Mr. Evans.
8. It is found that the September 13, 1996 meeting was an unofficial gathering of persons called for the purpose of persuading a former member, Mr. Evans, to accept re-appointment to the respondent commission and was not held under the imprimatur of the respondent commission.
9. It is also found that, although a new draft of proposed by-laws for the respondent commission was distributed at the September 13, 1996 meeting, matters over which the respondent commission had supervision, control and jurisdiction were not acted upon or even discussed, within the meaning of § 1-18a(b), G.S.
10. It is therefore concluded that there was no "meeting" of a public agency as defined at § 1-18a(b), G.S., and the FOI notice requirements for open meetings were not applicable.
11. It is found that, the events described at paragraph 2.b., above, took place at a meeting of the board of selectmen on August 26, 1996.
12. It is therefore concluded that, pursuant to the provisions of § 1-21i(b)(1), G.S., the Commission does not have jurisdiction over the allegations described at paragraph 2.b., above, because the alleged violations of the FOI Act took place more than thirty days before the complaint was postmarked or filed to the Commission.
13. It is found that a notice for the special meeting of October 15, 1996 was posted, pursuant to the requirements of § 1-21(a), G.S., on October 10, 1996.
14. It is therefore concluded that the respondent first selectman did not violate any notice provision of the FOI Act with respect to the October 15, 1996 meeting.
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.
2. While the respondents did not cross the line into FOI violation in this case, the respondents are urged to exercise a high level of care concerning FOI requirements in the future.
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:
91 Sperry Road
Bethany, CT 06524
First Selectman, Town of Bethany and Inland Wetlands
Commission, Town of Bethany
c/o Priscilla C. Mulvaney, Esq.
325 South Main Street
Cheshire, CT 06410
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission