FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|Frances B. Lo,|
|against||Docket #FIC 1998-117|
Kurt Zemba, Chairman, Board of Education, Regional School District #18; Russell Gomes, Roderick White, William Wenck, Richard Lickwar, and William Groves as members of the Board of Education, Regional School District #18; and Board Of Education, Regional School District #18,
|Respondents||September 23, 1998|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 29, 1998 at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. Docket #FIC 1998-119, Frances B. Lo v. Kurt Zemba, Chairman, Board of Education, Regional School District #18, was consolidated with the above-captioned matter for purpose of hearing. 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 April 21, 1998 and filed with the Commission on April 22, 1998, the complainant alleged that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by participating in illegal meetings. Specifically, the complainant alleges that the respondents:
a. held an unnoticed meeting on April 21, 1998 and discussed a personnel matter concerning the superintendent of schools (superintendent); andb. held unnoticed meetings during which the respondents discussed and decided on a course of action regarding the personnel matter described in 2a. above;
In her letter of complaint, the complainant requested that the commission impose civil penalties upon the respondents and require them to attend FOI training.
3. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2a. above, it is found that on April 21, 1998, the respondent chairman met with the superintendent and the respondent boards attorney and discussed a possible resolution of a personnel matter concerning the superintendent (hereinafter April 21, 1998 meeting). No other member of the nine member board of education attended the April 21, 1998 meeting.
4. Section 1-18a(2), G.S., provides, in relevant 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. "Meeting" shall not include: a caucus of members of a single political party notwithstanding that such members also constitute a quorum of a public agency; an administrative or staff meeting of a single-member public agency .
5. It is found that during the April 21, 1998 meeting the respondent chairman was acting in an administrative capacity as head of the board of education.
6. It is also found that when the respondent chairman acts in an administrative capacity as head of the board of education he is a single-member public agency, within the meaning of §1-18a(2), G.S.
7. It is therefore, found that under the specific facts of this case the April 21, 1998 meeting constituted an administrative meeting of a single-member public agency, within the meaning of §1-18a(2), G.S.
8. Consequently, it is concluded that the April 21, 1998 meeting is excluded from the open meeting provisions of §1-21(a), G.S., and the respondents did not violate such provision.
9. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2b, above, it is found that sometime between April 4, 1998 and April 21, 1998, the respondents spoke by telephone at different times and discussed the personnel matter in question.
10. It is also found that as a result of the telephone discussions described in paragraph 9, above, it became apparent to the respondent chairman that there was consensus among the respondents, that a particular course of action should be pursued with respect to resolving the personnel matter.
11. It is further found that the telephone discussions, and the consensus described in paragraph 10, above, occurred among members of the board of education who are all from the same political party. Consequently, such telephone discussions constitute caucuses within the meaning of §1-18a(2), G.S., and are therefore, excluded from the open meeting provisions of §1-21(a), G.S.
12. It is therefore, concluded that the respondents did not violate §1-21(a), G.S.
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 September 23, 1998.
_________________________ Melanie R. Balfour 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:
Frances B. Lo 20 Old Stagecoach Road Old Lyme, CT 06371
Kurt Zemba, Chairman, Board of Education, Regional School District #18; Russell Gomes, Roderick White, William Wenck, Richard Lickwar, and William Groves as members of the Board of Education, Regional School District #18; and Board Of Education, Regional School District #18 c/o Atty. Richard D. OConnor Siegel, OConnor, Schiff & Zangari, PC 150 Trumbull Street Hartford, CT. 06103
__________________________ Melanie R. Balfour Acting Clerk of the Commission