FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Nancy J. Eggen,
Complainants
against Docket #FIC 1998-113
New Milford Planning Commission,
Town of New Milford,
Respondents August 26, 1998
	The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 11, 1998, at 
which time the complainant and the respondent 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 respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(1), G. S.
 
	2.  It is found that the respondent planning commission (“respondent”) filed a 
notice of and held a meeting on April 7, 1998, at 6 o’clock p.m., at which it to discussed 
and made certain recommendations and approvals regarding a road construction project in 
the town of New Milford (herinafter “road construction project”). 

	3.  It is found that the notice and agenda for the April 7, 1998 meeting filed with 
the town clerk at 2:22 p.m. on that date and the meeting was noticed as an emergency 
special meeting. 

	4.  By letter dated and filed on April 28, 1998, the complainant appealed to the 
Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) 
Act by convening an emergency special meeting when no emergency existed.  The 
complainant requested that the Commission declare null and void the actions taken by the 
respondent at its meeting of April 7, 1998.  

	5.  It is found that the town of New Milford was scheduled to hold a town 
meeting on April 7, 1998, at 8 p.m. at which there would be discussion and possible 
approval of the bonding necessary for the road construction project described in 
paragraph 2, above.  

	6.  At the hearing on this matter, the respondent maintained that the normal 
course for such a project would be for the respondent to make certain recommendations 
and approvals prior to the town meeting. The respondent claimed that on the morning of 
April 7, 1998, it discovered that it had not made all of the necessary recommendations 
and approvals.    

	7.  The respondent further claimed that it had been advised by the town attorney, 
based upon his interpretation of 8-24, G.S., to call an emergency special meeting before 
the town meeting because 8-24, G.S., required the respondent to make the necessary 
approvals before the town could take any action.

	8.  Section 1-21(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that:
Notice of each special meeting of every public agency  . . shall be 
given not less that twenty-four hours prior to the time of such 
meeting by filing a notice of the time and place thereof . . . in the 
office of the clerk of such subdivision for any public agency of a 
political subdivision of the state . . . .  Such notice shall be given 
not less than twenty-four hours prior to the time of the special 
meeting; provided, in case of emergency . . . any such special 
meeting may be held without complying with the foregoing 
requirement for filing of notice . . . .
	10.  The Second College Edition of The American Heritage Dictionary (1982) 
defines emergency as an “unexpected situation or sudden occurrence of a serious and 
urgent nature that demands immediate action.”
 
	11.  In Town of Lebanon v. Waylord, the court held that “[a] broad interpretation 
of what constitutes an “emergency” special meeting, with its lack of even the minimal 
twenty-four hours notice requirement, would circumvent the purpose of the FOIA and the 
right of the public to a free and open government . . .” and that “[t]he  [FOI] 
commission’s interpretation that an emergency meeting may be held only when there is 
no time for a special meeting notice to be posted twenty-four hours in advance is 
reasonable . . . .”  Town of Lebanon v. Wayland, 39 Conn.Supp. 56, 61, 62 (1983).

	12.  It is found that although the respondent did not become aware until the 
morning of April 7, 1998, that it had not made the necessary approvals, the respondent 
had at least two months advance notice of the road construction project and two weeks 
advance notice of the town meeting scheduled for April 7, 1998, and of the business to be 
conducted thereat.  

	13.  Furthermore, 8-24, G.S., provides in relevant part that:
 
 No municipal agency or legislative body shall (1) locate, accept, 
abandon, widen, narrow or extend any street, bridge, parkway or 
other public way . . . until proposal to take such action has been 
referred to the [local planning and zoning] commission for a report.  
Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, a municipality may 
take final action approving an appropriation for any proposal prior 
to the approval of the proposal by the commission pursuant to this 
section.  
 
	14.  It is found that 8-24, G.S., clearly permits a municipality to take action 
without the prior approval of its planning commission and due to the explicit language of 
the statute, the Commission finds the respondent’s claim concerning the appropriateness 
of its special meeting to be incredible.

	15.  It is further found that the situation described in paragraph 7, above, was not 
an unexpected situation or a sudden occurrence of a serious and urgent nature that 
demanded immediate action and that there was time for a special meeting and for notice 
of the same to be posted twenty-four hours in advance. 

	16.  Therefore, it is concluded that the respondent violated 1-21(a), G.S., when it 
held a meeting on April 7, 1998, without providing notice thereof at least twenty-four 
hours in advance of such meeting.  

	17.  The Commission declines to declare the actions taken at the respondent’s 
April 7, 1998 meeting null and void. 
	The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of 
the record concerning the above-captioned complaint.
	1.  Henceforth the respondent shall strictly comply with the provisions of 1-
21(a), G.S., concerning emergency and special meetings.  

	2.  Within thirty days of the mailing of the notice of final decision in this case, 
the respondent shall cause a copy of this final decision to be posted in the office of the 
town clerk in a conspicuous place for a period of thirty days.

	Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular 
meeting of August 26, 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:
Nancy J. Eggen
10 West Meetinghouse Road
New Milford, CT 06776
New Milford Planning Commission,
Town of New Milford
c/o Thomas W. Beecher
Atty. Francis Collins
Collins, Hannafin, Garamella, Jaber, & Tuozzolo, P.C.
148 Deer Hill Avenue
P.O. Box 440
Danbury, CT 06810


__________________________
Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission




FIC1998-113/FD/tcg/08281998