FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Robert Koskelowski,
Complainants
against Docket #FIC 1998-290
Board of Ethics, Town of Seymour,
Respondents February 24, 1999

        The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 15, 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. By letter dated September 23, 1998 and filed on September 24, 1998, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act with respect to a special meting held on August 27, 1998 by:

a) convening such special meeting, without filing an agenda, and failing to specify the place of the meeting and the business to be conducted; and

b) discussing the complainant in executive session at such special meeting without notifying the complainant of the executive session discussion.

        3. In his complaint, the complainant further alleged that, with respect to a September 14, 1998 special meeting, the respondent:

a) failed to specify in the agenda the place of the meeting;

b) failed to have the agenda date-stamped by the town clerk’s office;

c) improperly hand wrote the word "special" on the top of the agenda;

d) failed to state the purpose of the executive session in the minutes; and

e) failed to provide the complainant with notice of the September 14, 1998 meeting.

        4. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2a, above, it is found that the respondent held a special meeting on August 27, 1998.

        5. 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 than 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….

The notice shall specify the time and place of the special meeting and the business to be transacted.

        6. It is found that the respondent filed a notice of the August 27, 1998 special meeting, however, such notice did not specify the place of the meeting and the business to be transacted within the meaning of 1-21(a), G.S.

        7. It is therefore, concluded that the respondent violated 1-21(a), G.S., when it failed to specify in the notice of the meeting the place of such meeting and the business to be transacted.

        8. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2b, above, it is found that at the August 27, 1998 special meeting, described in paragraph 4, above, the respondent convened in executive session and at that time discussed an ethics complaint filed by the complainant against a public official.

        9. The respondent contends that the executive session was appropriately held and relies on 1-82a, G.S.

        10. Section 1-82a, G.S., provides in relevant part:

(a) Unless the [ethics] commission makes a finding of probable cause, a complaint alleging a violation of this part shall be confidential except upon the request of the respondent. A [ethics] commission evaluation of a possible violation of this part prior to the filing of a complaint by the commission shall be confidential except upon the request of the subject of the evaluation.

        11. It is found that the respondent has confused a 1-82a, G.S., ethics complaint meeting to evaluate an ethics complaint with an executive session discussion held pursuant to the FOI Act.

        12. It is found that the respondent convened the August 27, 1998 meeting as a special meeting within the meaning of the FOI Act and then discussed the ethics complaint in executive session, instead of convening an ethics complaint meeting pursuant to 1-82a, G.S.

        13. The complainant contends that because he filed the ethics complaint, and such complaint was discussed by the respondent during the August 27, 1998 executive session, he was entitled to notice of such discussion pursuant to 1-18a(6)(A), G.S.

        14. Section 1-18a(6), G.S., provides that "[‘E]xecutive sessions’ means a meeting of a public agency at which the public is excluded for one or more of the following purposes: (A) 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."

        15. It is found that the complainant was not the subject of the August 27, 1998 discussion within the meaning of 1-18a(6)(A), G.S., but rather it was the public official against whom the complainant filed the ethics complaint who was the subject of such executive session. Consequently, the respondent did not violate any of the complainant’s rights under the FOI Act when it failed to provide the complainant with notice of the August 27, 1998 discussion.

        16. With respect to the allegations described in paragraph 3a, 3b, 3c, 3d and 3e, above, it is found that the respondent held a special meeting on September 14, 1998.

        17. It is found that the respondent failed to specify the place of the September 14, 1998 meeting and the business to be transacted, within the meaning of 1-21(a), G.S., and therefore, violated such provision.

        18. It is also found, that the respondent submitted its agenda for the September 14, 1998 meeting to the town clerk’s office for filing on September 10, 1998. However, the town clerk’s office omitted to date-stamp the agenda until sometime after the complainant visited such office, reviewed the agenda, and drew attention to the missing date-stamp.

        19. It is also found that by hand writing the word "special" on the top of the respondent’s September 14, 1998 agenda, the respondent did not violate any provisions under the FOI Act.

        20. Section 1-21(a), G.S., 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." [Emphasis added.]

        21. Therefore, in accordance with 1-21(a), G. S, the respondent is required to state the reasons for an executive session, as defined in section 1-18a, G. S. It is found that neither the respondent’s September 14, 1998 agenda nor the minutes of such meeting state the reasons for the executive sessions held on that date. Consequently, the respondent violated 1-21(a), G.S.

        22. It is concluded that because the individual against whom the complainant filed the ethics complaint was the subject of the September 14, 1998 executive session discussion, and not the complainant, the respondent did not violate any of the complainant’s rights under the FOI Act when it failed to provide him with notice of the discussion.

        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 specify in its notice of special meeting the place where such meetings will be held and the business to be transacted at such meetings in accordance with the requirements of 1-21(a), G.S. The respondent shall also state the reasons for executive sessions as defined in section 1-18a, G.S.

        2. To avoid future discrepancies, the respondent should ensure that meeting notices and agendas filed with the town clerk’s office are properly date-stamped to accurately reflect such filings.

 

 

 

        Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of February 24, 1999.

 

 

_________________________

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:

 

Robert Koskelowski
130 Pearl Street
Seymour, CT 06483
Board of Ethics,
Town of Seymour
c/o Atty. Colleen D. Fries
Town Counsel, Town of Seymour
Bai, Pollock and Coyne, PC
PO Box 1978
Bridgeport, CT 06601
 

 

 

 

__________________________

Melanie R. Balfour

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC1998-290FD/mrb02261999