OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|David P. Vecchia,|
|against||Docket #FIC 2002-101|
|Board of Finance, City of Stamford,|
|Respondents||September 11, 2002|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 14, 2002, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. The Commission takes administrative notice of the record in Docket #FIC2002-095 David P. Vecchia v. Director, Department of Human Resources, City of Stamford.
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 §1-200(1), G.S.
2. By letter dated March 9, 2002 and filed on March 8, 2002, the complainant appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by discussing his employment in executive session at its February 11, 2002 meeting without providing notice to him and an opportunity to request that the discussion be held in open session.
3. Section 1-225(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that “[t]he meetings of all public agencies, except executive sessions as defined in subdivision (6) of section 1-200, shall be open to the public.”
4. Section 1-200(6), G.S., provides in relevant part that executive session means a meeting of a public agency at which the public is excluded for “(A) [d]iscussion 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 . . . .”
5. It is found that the complainant was employed by the city of Stamford (hereinafter “city”)as its purchasing agent and in 1998, a complaint alleging harassment, creation of a hostile work environment and stalking was filed by another city of Stamford employee (hereinafter “city employee”) against the complainant.
6. It is found that the city conducted an administrative investigation that included a number of meetings with the complainant, the director of the city’s department of human resources, William Stover, and the city’s human resources specialist, Fred Manfredonia.
7. It is found that at the conclusion of the administrative investigation the complainant and the city reached an agreement that the complainant would continue in his position as purchasing agent, provided he cease and desist his behavior toward the city employee.
8. It is found that sometime in 2000, the complainant was arrested and charged with stalking the city employee.
9. It is found that subsequent to the complainant’s arrest, the city employee filed a complaint with the State Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”) and threatened a civil action against the city in relation to the incidents in 1998 and 2000.
10. It is found that after the complainant’s arrest in 2000, he was placed on a paid leave of absence from his job as purchasing agent.
11. It is found that after a period of time the members of the respondent board became concerned about the complainant’s employment status because the complainant had been paid without working for over a year and taxpayers were beginning to voice their dissatisfaction.
12. It is found that the respondent board held a meeting on February 11, 2002, at which it convened in executive session.
13. It is found that the agenda for the February 11, 2002, meeting provided at Item 2 “discussion item: follow up – status of purchasing agent’s position . . . it is anticipated that this item will be discussed in executive session.”
14. At the hearing on this matter, the respondent claimed that the agenda should have more appropriately stated “pending claims and litigation” because the discussion held in executive session at its February 11, 2002 meeting was more about the status of certain civil actions involving the complainant and the city than about the complainant’s employment status. The respondent argued that because the discussion was about pending claims and litigation and not about the complainant’s employment, it was not obligated to provide the complainant with notice and therefore did not violate the FOI Act as alleged by the complainant.
15. It is found that Mr. William Stover was invited into the executive session.
16. It is found that during the executive session, Mr. Stover was asked by the members of the respondent board whether a decision had been made regarding the complainant’s employment status and Mr. Stover informed the respondent board that the complainant had pled guilty to the charges of stalking and that the city employee had filed claims against the city, as referenced in paragraph 9, above.
17. It is found that Mr. Stover was specifically asked how long he expected the complainant to continue to be on a paid leave and he informed the respondent board that while city officials had met with the complainant since his guilty plea, no decision had been made regarding his employment.
18. It is found that the substance of the respondent board’s February 11, 2002 executive session was to determine whether the complainant was either going to be allowed to return to work or be terminated.
19. Consequently, it is found that the respondent board discussed the employment and dismissal of the complainant during its February 11, 2002 executive session and failed to provide notice to the complainant or give him an opportunity to request that the discussion be held in open session.
20. It is concluded therefore that the respondent board violated the executive session provisions of §1-200(6)(A), G.S.
21. The Commission notes that even if the discussion of the executive session had been limited to pending claims and litigation as claimed by the respondent, §1-200(6)(B), G.S., provides that executive session means a meeting of a public agency at which the public is excluded for “strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims or pending litigation to which the public agency or a member thereof . . . is a party until such litigation or claim has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled . . . .” Thus, the respondent board would still have been in violation of the executive session provisions of §1-200(6)(B), G.S., because the discussion neither pertained to strategy or negotiations nor were its members a party to any of the actions discussed during the executive session.
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 executive session provisions of §1-200(6)(A), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of September 11, 2002.
Petrea A. Jones
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:
David P. Vecchia
PO Box 159
West Redding, CT 06896
Board of Finance,
City of Stamford
c/o John W. Mullin, Jr., Esq.
Assistant Corporation Counsel
888 Washington Street, PO Box 10152
Stamford, CT 06904-2152
Petrea A. Jones
Acting Clerk of the Commission