FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by

FINAL DECISION

Daniel V. Presnick,  

Complainant

 

against

Docket #FIC 1996-435

Ralph Okenquist, Chairman, Park And Recreation Commission, Town Of Orange; Denise Mirto; Janet Lutz; Lee Warncke; Michael Apuzzo; Alfred Bucknall; David Baretta, As Members Of Park And Recreation Commission; And Park And Recreation Commission, Town Of Orange,  

Respondents

June 11, 1997

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 18, 1997, at which time the complainant and 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 August 29, 1996, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act with respect to the respondent commission’s August 28, 1996 meeting, by:

a. failing to either indicate on the meeting agenda that they would act upon a personnel matter, or make the necessary motion to add such an item to the agenda;

b. failing to properly convene in executive session to discuss "personnel matters"; and

c. convening in executive session for an improper purpose.

In his appeal, the complainant requested that the Commission impose civil penalties against each of the individual respondents, and declare null and void the respondent commission’s action following the executive session to send a letter to him concerning his actions at the Cedarcrest facility.

3. It is found that the respondent commission held a regular meeting on August 28, 1996, during which it convened in executive session to discuss "personnel matters".

4. Section 1-21(a), G.S., in relevant part, provides that:

[t]he agenda of the regular meetings of every public agency … shall be available to the public and shall be filed, not less than twenty-four hours before the meetings to which they refer …. Upon 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….

With respect to the allegations described in paragraph 2a., above, it is found that the July 28, 1996 meeting agenda did not indicate that the respondent commission would discuss "personnel matters."

6. It is further found that the respondent commission did not vote to add "personnel matters" to the meeting agenda, as required by 1-21(a), G.S.

7. It is concluded therefore, with respect to the allegations described in paragraph 2a., above, that the respondents violated 1-21(a), G.S.

8. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2b., above, it is found that the minutes of the meeting indicate that the respondents moved and then voted to convene in executive session to discuss "personnel matters".

9. Section 1-21(a), G.S., further provides in relevant part, that:

[a] public agency may hold an executive session as defined in subsection (e) of section 1-18a, upon an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of such body present and voting, taken at a public meeting and stating the reasons for such executive session, as defined in said section.

10. However, it is found that the respondents failed to state with any specificity the nature of the "personnel matters" to be discussed in executive session.

11. It is concluded therefore, with respect to the allegations described in paragraph 2b., above, that the respondents violated 1-21(a), G.S., when the respondent commission convened in executive session without specifically stating the reason for the executive session.

12. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2c., above, it is found that the minutes of the meeting indicate that the respondent commission "requested that Park and Rec staff stay" to attend the subject executive session for "personnel matters".

13. Section 1-18a(e)(1), G.S., provides in relevant part that an executive session may be convened to discuss:

… the appointment, employment, performance, evaluation, health or dismissal of a public officer or employee ….

14. It is found that the discussion held in executive session did not concern the appointment, employment, performance, evaluation, health or dismissal of the park and recreation staff members who attended the executive session.

15. It is further found that the discussion in executive session concerned the events at the Cedarcrest facility which events were the subject of an August 14, 1996 letter from the aquatic supervisor for the town’s park and recreation department to the complainant.

16. It is further found that the executive session was not convened for a proper purpose under 1-18a(e)(1), G.S.

17. It is concluded therefore, with respect to the allegations described in paragraph 3c., above, that the respondents violated the provisions of 1-18a(e) and 1-21(a), G.S.

18. The Commission declines to impose civil penalties in this case.

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

1. All actions taken at or resulting from, the executive session held at the respondent commission’s August 28, 1996 meeting, are hereby declared null and void.

2. Henceforth the respondents shall strictly comply with the executive session and open meeting requirements set forth in 1-18a(e) and 1-21, G.S.

3. The Commission cautions the respondents that a denial of any right conferred under the Freedom of Information Act, without reasonable grounds could lead to the imposition of a maximum civil penalty of one thousand dollars ($1000.00).

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 11, 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:

Daniel V. Presnick
760 Riverside Drive
Orange, CT 06477-1726

Ralph Okenquist, Chairman, Park And Recreation Commission, Town Of Orange; Denise Mirto; Janet Lutz; Lee Warncke; Michael Apuzzo; Alfred Bucknall; David Baretta, As Members Of Park And Recreation Commission; And Park And Recreation Commission, Town Of Orange
c/o Francis A. Teodosio, Esq.
Winnick, Vine, Welch & Teodosio, LLC
375 Bridgeport Avenue
PO Drawer 668
Shelton, CT 06484

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC 1996-435/FD/eal/06231997