FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|John A. DeLutio,|
|against||Docket #FIC 1998-140|
Abraham N. Morelli, First Selectman, Town of Ridgefield; Peter Yanity, Joseph Savino, Barbara Manners and Michael Jones as members of the Board of Selectmen, Town of Ridgefield; and Board of Selectmen, Town of Ridgefield
|Respondents||September 9, 1998|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 14, 1998 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(1), G.S.
2. By letter of complaint dated May 4, 1998 and filed with the Commission on May 12 1998, the complainant alleged that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, with respect to a meeting held on April 8, 1998, by:
a. failing to file a record of votes within forty-eight hours of the meeting and improperly recording the votes taken at such meeting;b. filing the minutes on April 14, 1998;c. adding an item to the agenda without first obtaining the required two-thirds vote;d. improperly convening in executive session to discuss two real estate matters concerning the Eppoliti and Shadow Lake properties; ande. permitting three members of the Educational Committee to attend and remain in the executive session.
In his letter of complaint, the complainant requested that the commission impose a civil penalty upon the respondent board.
3. It is found that the respondent board held a regular meeting on April 8, 1998.
4. With respect to the allegations described in paragraph 2a, above, §1-21(a), G.S., in relevant part, provides:
The votes of each member of any public agency upon any issue before such public agency shall be reduced to writing and made available for public inspection within forty-eight hours and shall also be recorded in the minutes of the session at which taken, which minutes shall be available for public inspection within seven days of the session to which they refer.
5. It is found that the respondent board failed to make available for public inspection within forty eight hours of the April 8, 1998 meeting the vote of each of its members upon each issue before the respondent board.
6. Consequently, it is concluded that the respondent board violated §1-21(a), G.S.
7. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2b, above, it is found that the respondent board filed the minutes of the April 8, 1998 meeting on April 14, 1998.
8. It is concluded that the filing of the minutes described in paragraph 7, above, is in accordance with the seven day requirement of §1-21(a), G.S. Therefore, the respondents did not violate such provision.
9. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2c, above, §1-21(a), G.S., in relevant part, provides:
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 .
10. It is found that the respondent board failed to prove that it obtained a two- thirds vote prior to adding to the April 8, 1998 agenda an item of business described as interview of applicant Cortez Barios and George Orlan for building committee.
11. Consequently, it is concluded that the respondent board violated §1-21(a), G.S.
12. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2d, above, it is found that during the April 8, 1998 meeting, the respondent board convened in executive session and at that time discussed the towns acquisition of the Eppoliti property, as well as strategy in connection with a pending bankruptcy action concerning such property. There was no discussion concerning the Shadow Lake Road property.
13. Section 1-21(a), G.S., in relevant part, provides:
A public agency may hold an executive session as defined in subdivision (6) 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 1-18a.
14. Section 1-18a(6), G.S., in relevant part, provides:
"Executive sessions" means a meeting of a public agency at which the public is excluded for one or more of the following purposes: (B) 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
15. It is found that the respondent board failed to state the reason for the executive session, in accordance with §§1-21(a) and 1-18a(6), G.S.
16. However, it is found that by discussing the towns strategy with respect to the litigation described in paragraph 12, above, the respondent board did not violate the executive session provisions of §1-18a(6), G.S.
17. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2e, above, it is found that the respondent board invited members of the Education Committee to participate in the executive session.
18. Section 1-21g(a), G.S., in relevant part, provides:
At an executive session of a public agency, attendance shall be limited to members of said body and persons invited by said body to present testimony or opinion pertinent to matters before said body provided that such persons' attendance shall be limited to the period for which their presence is necessary to present such testimony or opinion and, provided further, that the minutes of such executive session shall disclose all persons who are in attendance except job applicants who attend for the purpose of being interviewed by such agency.
19. It is found that the respondent board failed to prove that the attendance of the Education Committee members at the executive session was limited to the period for which their presence was necessary to present testimony or opinion, within the meaning of §1-21g(a), G.S.
20. It is also found that the April 8, 1998 minutes do not disclose all persons in attendance at the executive session in accordance with the requirement of §1-21g(a), G.S.
21. It is therefore, concluded that the respondent board violated §§1-21(a) and 1- 21g(a), G.S.
22. The Commission in its discretion declines to impose a civil penalty in this matter.
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 strictly comply with §§1-21(a) and 1-21g(a), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of September 9, 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:
John A. DeLutio 60 Walnut Grove Road Ridgefield, CT 06877
Abraham N. Morelli, First Selectman, Town of Ridgefield; Peter Yanity, Joseph Savino, Barbara Manners and Michael Jones as members of the Board of Selectmen, Town of Ridgefield; and Board of Selectmen, Town of Ridgefield c/o Atty. J. Allen Kerr Jr. 400 Main Street Ridgefield, CT 06877
__________________________ Doris V. Luetjen Acting Clerk of the Commission