FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

FINAL DECISION
Docket #FIC 1996-571
August 13, 1997

In the Matter of a Complaint by Frank A. Loda, Complainant
against
John A. O’Toole; Evelyn Dziadik; John Greco; Eugene Severn; Clifford Strumello; Walter Trzcinski; and Louis Zaccaro, as members of the Board of Selectmen, Town of Seymour; and Board of Selectmen, Town of Seymour, Respondents

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 7 and April 30, 1997, at which times 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 notice dated November 6, 1996, and filed on November 8, 1996, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by conducting two illegal, private meetings in connection with the October 15, 1996 meeting of the respondent board (the "meeting"), to wit:

a. during the meeting, the respondent First Selectman O’Toole and the board recessed and assembled in the first selectman’s office in order to discuss the dismissal of the complainant as Chairman of the Board of Police Commissioners of the Town of Seymour (the "Loda matter");

b. after the complainant completed his presentation to the respondent board at the meeting, the board voted to go into executive session over the objections of the complainant in order to discuss the type of personnel action to be taken against the complainant.

The complaint to the Commission asked that the vote of the board on the Loda matter at the meeting be declared null and void and that a civil penalty be imposed on all individual respondents.

3. Section 1-21(a), G.S., provides in pertinent part that: "the meetings of all public agencies, except executive sessions as defined in subsection (e) of section 1-18a, shall be open to the public."

4. Section 1-18a(e), G.S., provides in pertinent part:

"Executive sessions" means a meeting of a public agency at which the public is excluded for one or more of the following purposes: (1) discussion concerning the appointment, employment, performance, evaluation, health or dismissal of a public officer or employee, provided that such individual may require that discussion be held at an open meeting; (2) strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims or pending litigation to which the public agency or a member thereof, because of his conduct as a member of such agency, is a party until such litigation or claim has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled…. [emphasis added]

5. It is found that, in accord with the provisions of 1-18a(e)(1), G.S., the complainant requested repeatedly and at all relevant times that the proceedings of the respondent board concerning the Loda matter be open to the public.

6. It is found that the recess referenced at paragraph 2a, above, was requested by the complainant’s attorney so that a relevant tape recording could be retrieved from the office of the first selectman, that only two of the seven selectmen were actually in the first selectman’s office at the same time, and that the Loda matter was not discussed by the selectmen during the recess.

7. It is also found that the executive session referenced at paragraph 2b, above, included a discussion of the Loda matter, separate and apart from the discussion that also took place concerning the litigation pending in the case of John Doe v. Town of Seymour.

8. It is, therefore, concluded that the respondents did not violate the FOI Act with respect to the allegations referenced at paragraph 2a, above, but that the respondents did conduct the executive session referenced at paragraph 2b, above, in violation of the provisions of 1-18a(e)(1) and 1-21(a), G.S., in that a private discussion concerning the employment, performance, evaluation, and dismissal of a public officer was held notwithstanding the fact that the public officer in question requested that these proceedings be open to the public.

9. The Commission, in its discretion, declines to impose any civil penalty in this case.

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 conduct all of their meetings in strict conformity with the requirements of 1-18a(e) (1) and 1-21(a), G.S.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of August 13, 1997.

__________________________
Doris V. Luetjen
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:
Frank A. Loda
c/o Francis A. Teodosio, Esq.
Winnick, Vine, Welch, Donnelly & Teodosio, LLC
375 Bridgeport Avenue
P.O. Drawer 668
Shelton, CT 06484

John A. O’Toole; Evelyn Dziadik; John Greco; Eugene Severn; Clifford Strumello; Walter Trzcinski; and Louis Zaccaro, as members of the Board of Selectmen, Town of Seymour; and Board of Selectmen, Town of Seymour
c/o Atty. Colleen D. Fries
Bai, Pollock, and Coyne, P.C.
P.O. Box 1978
Bridgeport, CT 06601

__________________________
Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission
fic1996-571/FD/tcg/08221997