FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

FINAL DECISION
Docket #FIC 1996-552
June 11, 1997

In the Matter of a Complaint by Beverly Roberts, Complainant
against
John Patton, Robert Lisiewski, and Robert Ryder, as members of the Inter-Board Task Force, Town of Willington; Inter-Board Task Force, Town of Willington; and Board of Education, Town of Willington, Respondents

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 27, 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 1-18a(a), G.S.

2. By letter dated October 21, 1996, and filed with the Commission on October 25, 1996, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act by holding an illegal meeting of a public agency or agencies in order to discuss consolidating the finance departments of the Board of Education and the town’s finance department.

3. 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]

4. It is found that the respondents Patton, Lisiewski, and Ryder had a meeting at the end of September 1996, at which they discussed how to proceed with the possibility of putting the town’s accounting and finance functions together.

5. It is found that the respondents Patton, Lisiewski, and Ryder were meeting as individual public officials and not as authorized representatives of the Boards of Selectmen, Finance, or the respondent Board of Education on which, respectively, they served.

6. It is also found that the Board of Selectmen first discussed the proposal to have an inter-board task force on October 7, 1996, that the respondent Board of Education first discussed the proposal on October 8, 1996 and that the Board of Finance first discussed the same proposal on October 17, 1996.

7. It is found that the respondent Inter-board Task Force was formed on November 6, 1996, and that the respondents Patton, Lisiewski, and Ryder, when they met at the end of September 1996, were not meeting as members of the Inter-Board Task Force.

8. It is concluded that the September 1996 meeting of the respondents Patton, Lisiewski, and Ryder was not a meeting of a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S., and that, therefore, there was no violation of the open meetings provisions of 1-21(a), G.S.

9. The Commission appreciates the position of the complainant in this matter because she believed, probably with justification, that the decision of the respondents Patton, Lisiewski, and Ryder to proceed in their advocacy of an inter-board task force was tantamount to the town’s decision to create such a board. However, this conclusion of fact was a function of the informal authority that the respondents Patton, Lisiewski, and Ryder held in their town, and not a result of formal authority delegated by the respective public agencies on which they served. Accordingly, before the law, the meeting of the respondents Patton, Lisiewski, and Ryder in late September 1996 did not constitute a "meeting" of a "public agency".

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 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:

Beberly Roberts
16 Mason Road
Willington, CT 06279

John Patton, Robert Lisiewski, and Robert Ryder, as members of the Inter-Board Task Force, Town of Willington; Inter-Board Task Force, Town of Willington; and Board of Education, Town of Willington
c/o Carole W. Briggs, Esq.
Glenn H. Haese, LLC
100 Pearl Street, 14th Floor
Hartford, CT 06103-4506

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC 1996-552/FD/eal/06231997