FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Sharon Neri, Nancy J. LaPointe
and Windsor Locks Children’s
Action Network,
Complainants
against Docket #FIC 1998-257
Board of Education, Windsor
Locks Public Schools,
Respondents March 24, 1999

        The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on January 5, 1999 at which time the complainants 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 of complaint dated August 21, 1998 and filed with the Commission on August 24, 1998, the complainants, appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by:

a. tabling two agenda items at the respondent’s regular meeting of July 23, 1998 when such items came up for discussion and failing to take such items off the table for the remainder of the meeting;

b. failing to provide notice to interested non-union employees, groups or individuals of the respondent’s special meeting and executive session held on August 4, 1998;

c. holding executive sessions without providing specific information of the purposes for such sessions and without providing meaningful notice to interested parties; and

d. holding a secret meeting on March 18, 1998.

        3. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2a, above, it is found that the complainants have not alleged any violation of the FOI Act.

        4. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2b, above, it is found that the respondent held a special meeting on August 4, 1998 at which time it convened in executive session and discussed compensation of non-union employees.

        5. The complainants contend that interested non-union employees, groups or individuals were not provided with any notice beyond the August 3, 1998 notice posted by the respondent for the August 4, 1998 special meeting.

        6. It is found that the complainants are not public officers or employees who were the subjects of the August 4, 1998 executive session discussion, within the meaning of 1-18a(6)(A), G.S. Section 1-18a(6)(A), G.S., gives a public officer or employee who is the subject of an executive session discussion concerning such public officer or employee’s appointment, employment, performance, evaluation, health or dismissal, the right to require that such discussion be held at an open meeting.

        7. Consequently, the complainants were not entitled to any additional notice of the executive session beyond the August 3, 1998 notice posted by the respondent for the August 4, 1998 special meeting.

        8. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2c, above, 1-21i(b)(1), G.S., provides, in relevant part:

Any person … denied any … right conferred by the Freedom of Information Act may appeal therefrom to the Freedom of Information Commission, by filing a notice of appeal with said [FOI] commission. A notice of appeal shall be filed within thirty days after such denial, except in the case of an unnoticed or secret meeting, in which case the appeal shall be filed within thirty days after the person filing the appeal receives notice in fact that such meeting was held. [Emphasis added.]

        9. It is found that the respondent’s meetings with which the complainants take issue, occurred between November 19, 1997 and August 11, 1998. At the hearing on this matter, the complainants presented evidence in connection with meetings of the respondent held on the following dates: November 19 and 25, 1997; December 11, 1997; January 7 and 22, 1998; February 12, March 12, March 23, March 24, April 7, April 28, May 14, May 28, June 11, July 23, August 4 and August 11, 1998.

        10. The complainants’ notice of appeal to the Commission was filed on August 24, 1998.

        11. It is found that the notice of appeal was untimely filed with respect to the meetings, described in paragraph 9, above, with the exception of the August 4 and 11, 1998 meetings.

        12. Consequently, it is concluded that the Commission lacks jurisdiction to address the merits of the complainants’ allegations as they pertain to meetings, described in paragraph 9, above, with the exception of the August 4 and 11, 1998 meetings.

        13. With respect to the August 4, 1998 meeting, it is found that findings 4, 5, 6 and 7, above, adequately address the notice issue raised by the complainants and therefore, such findings are incorporated herein as if fully set forth.

        14. It is also found that contrary to the complainants’ contention, the respondent stated with specificity the purpose of the executive session held on August 4, 1998. However, what was not alleged in the complaint is that the stated purpose of the executive session, "discussion non-union wage compensation", was not an appropriate purpose for an executive session, as conceded by the respondent at the hearing in this matter.

        15. With respect to the August 11, 1998 meeting, it is found that the respondent adequately stated the purpose of the executive session held on such date as "Discussion of Superintendent’s Evaluation".

        16. It is found that the discussion of the superintendent’s evaluation was a proper purpose for an executive session, within the meaning of 1-18a(6)(A), G.S.

        17. It is therefore, concluded that the respondent did not violate 1-18a(6), G.S., with respect to the August 11, 1998 executive session.

        18. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2d, above, it is found that on August 12, 1998, the complainants became aware that a March 18, 1998 meeting occurred. Consequently, it is concluded that on August 12, 1998 the complainants received "notice in fact, within the meaning of 1-21i(b)(1), G.S., that the March 18, 1998 meeting occurred.

        19. It is therefore, concluded that the complainants’ notice of appeal, was timely filed on August 24, 1998, well within the appropriate thirty-day period permitted pursuant to 1-21i(b)(1), G.S., concerning an allegation of a secret or unnoticed meeting. The Commission, therefore, has jurisdiction to address the merits of the allegation concerning the March 18, 1998 meeting.

        20. It is found that on March 16, 1998, the Director of Special Services became aware of the resignation of a school administrator. It is found that the Director of Special Services, the Principal of the Windsor Locks High School and other administrators held a meeting on March 18, 1998 at which they discussed the resignation issue.

        21. It is found that the administrators, described in paragraph 20, above, invited the respondent to attend the March 18, 1998 meeting, and four of the five members of the respondent attended such meeting.

        22. Section 1-18a(2), G.S., provides, in relevant part that:

"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.

        23. It is found that the March 18, 1998 meeting was not a hearing or proceeding of the respondent within the meaning of 1-18a(2), G.S. It is further found that although a quorum of the respondent was present at the March 18, 1998 administrators’ meeting, such quorum did not discuss or act upon a matter over which the respondent has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power at the meeting, within the meaning of 1-18a(2), G.S. Rather, it is found that the members of the respondent present at the March 18, 1998 meeting, observed the proceedings and did not participate in the discussions.

        24. It is therefore, concluded that the respondent did not hold a meeting within the meaning of 1-18a(2), G.S., on March 18, 1998.

        25. It is further concluded that the respondent did not violate the FOI Act as alleged in the complaint.

        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 March 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:

 

Sharon Neri, Nancy J. LaPointe
and Windsor Locks Children’s
Action Network
c/o Atty. James L. Walker
Walker & Associates
8 Landing Circle
Windsor, CT 06095
 Board of Education,
Windsor Locks Public
Schools
c/o Atty. Loren Lettick
1062 Barnes Road
Suite 307
Wallingford, CT 06492

 

 

 

__________________________

Melanie R. Balfour

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC1998-257FD/mrb03251999