FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by

FINAL DECISION

Melanie Kalako, Chairman, Board of Finance, Town of Seymour and Board of Finance, Town of Seymour,

 

 

Complainants

 

 

against

 

Docket #FIC 1997-167

John A. O’Toole, First Selectman, Town of Seymour; Evelyn Dziadik; John F. Greco; Eugene Severn; Clifford P. Strumello, Jr.; Walter Trzcinski; Louis J. Zaccaro; and David Sharkey, as members of the Board of Selectman, Town of Seymour; and Board of Selectman, Town of Seymour,

 

 

Respondents

April 22, 1998

        The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 7, 1997 and March 6, 1998, at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared, 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:

        The respondent board and the named individuals as members of the respondent board are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(1), G.S.

        By letter dated May 29, 1997 and filed on June 3, 1997, the complainants appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by discussing a topic that was not on their May 6, 1997 meeting agenda without voting to add that topic to the agenda by a two-thirds vote of the members of the respondent board present and voting.

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

" . . . The 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, in such agency’s regular office or place of business . . . . 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.

        It is found that the respondent board initiated a civil action against the complainant board and that each board had separate legal counsel.

        It is found that at some point after the initiation of the civil action but before May 6, 1997, counsel for the respondent board recused herself and withdrew from the representation of the respondent board which required the respondent board to seek and hire a special counsel to represent it in the civil action.

        It is found that the respondent board held a regular meeting on May 6, 1997, and that the posted agenda for such meeting included agenda item #12, "Approve Hire of Special Counsel."

        It is found that at its May 6, 1997 meeting, the respondent board discussed under item 12 various topics which included whether the respondent board would continue to pursue its action against the complainant board and whether or not to terminate the complainant board’s counsel.

        It is further found that the respondent board decided without a vote to withdraw its action against the complainant board and then voted to terminate the complainant board’s counsel. The respondents did not however vote to approve the hiring of special counsel, as indicated on its May 6, 1997 meeting agenda.

        At the hearings in this matter, the respondent first selectman stated that he prepared the May 6, 1997 meeting agenda and that he intended that agenda item #12, "Approve Hire of Special Counsel", to encompass discussion and action pertaining to the "use of all special counsel" and that therefore the discussion and action taken under item 12 concerning the termination of the complainant board’s legal counsel did not require a two-thirds vote.

        It is found that the agenda for the May 6, 1997 meeting did not fairly apprise the public of the business to be conducted at such meeting and that the discussion and vote concerning complainant board’s counsel constituted "subsequent business" within the meaning of 1-21(a), G.S. The Commission further finds incredible the respondent first selectman’s testimony described in paragraph 9, above.

        It is therefore concluded that the respondents violated 1-21(a), G.S., by discussing business not on the May 6, 1997 meeting agenda without properly adding such business to the agenda by obtaining a two-thirds vote of the members present and voting.

        It is found that the violation described in paragraph 11, above, was without reasonable grounds.

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

        1. The respondent first selectman shall forthwith remit to this Commission a civil penalty in the amount of $500.00.

        2. Henceforth, the respondents shall strictly comply with the provisions of 1-21(a), G.S.

        Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of April 22, 1998.

_________________________
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:
Melanie Kalako, Chairman, Board of Finance, Town of Seymour and Board of Finance, Town of Seymour
c/o Atty. Francis A. Teodosio
375 Bridgeport Avenue
P.O. Drawer 668
Shelton, CT 06484

John A. O’Toole, First Selectman, Town of Seymour; Evelyn Dziadik; John F. Greco; Eugene Severn; Clifford P. Strumello, Jr.; Walter Trzcinski; Louis J. Zaccaro; and David Sharkey, as members of the Board of Selectman, Town of Seymour; and Board of Selectman, Town of Seymour
c/o Atty. Colleen D. Fries
10 Middle Street
P.O. Box 1978
Bridgeport, CT 06604

__________________________
Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1997-167/FD/tcg/04271998