FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
William Francis,  
  Complainant  
  against    Docket #FIC 2004-276

Town Council, Town of

Vernon,

 
  Respondent April 13, 2005
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on January 18, 2005, 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-200(1), G.S.

 

            2.   By letter dated June 18, 2004, and filed with the Commission on June 21, 2004, the complainant alleged that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by conducting a meeting on June 8, 2004, out of the public view.   Specifically, the complainant alleged that another person had seen seven members of the respondent council and the Mayor of Vernon exiting a meeting room prior to the regularly scheduled meeting of the respondent board on such date.   The complainant further alleged that such seven members and mayor are Democrats but that the mayor is not a member of the respondent council. 

 

3.   Section 1-200(2), G.S., defines “meeting" as:

 

“…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’ does not include…a caucus of members of a single political party notwithstanding that such members also constitute a quorum of a public agency. ….”           

 

            4.  Section 1-200(3), G.S., in relevant part defines “caucus” to mean “…a convening or assembly of the enrolled members of a single political party who are members of a public agency within the state or a political subdivision….”

 

            5.  It is found that the respondent council consists of twelve members and that seven members constitute a quorum.  

 

            6.  It is found that the complainant’s allegation that seven members of the respondent council and the mayor exited a meeting room prior to the respondent’s June 8, 2004, regular meeting is based solely on hearsay, in that the complainant neither witnessed such alleged event, nor did he provide testimony from the person described in paragraph 2, above, who allegedly witnessed such event. 

 

7.  It is found that, although the exact number cannot be determined, several members of the respondent board and the mayor of Vernon met prior to the respondent’s regular meeting of June 8, 2004, and discussed the upcoming meeting’s agenda in general terms.   It is further found that all such individuals were members of the same political party. 

 

8.   The complainant contends that the Mayor of Vernon is not a member of the respondent council, since the Vernon Town Charter [hereinafter “Charter”] provides that the town council shall consist of twelve members elected at large, and that no member of the town council shall hold any other elective or appointive office.  Charter, Chapter V, Section 1. 

 

9.  However, it is found that the Charter also provides that the mayor shall attend the meetings, and be the presiding officer, of the respondent council, shall have full right of participation in its discussions, and shall have a vote in the case of a tie.   Charter, Chapter V, Section 2.    It is also found that the respondent council shall elect from its own number a mayor pro tempore, who shall act as mayor in the absence or disability of the mayor.   Id.   

 

10.  It is found that the mayor of Vernon is an ex-officio member of the respondent council.

 

11.  It is concluded that the gathering described in paragraph 7, above, was a “caucus,” and therefore not a “meeting,” within the meaning 1-200(1), G.S.

 

12.  It is 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 April 13, 2005.

 

________________________________

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:

 

William Francis

41 Pinnacle Road

Vernon, CT 06066

 

Town Council,

Town of Vernon

c/o Martin B. Burke, Esq.

130 Union Street

PO Box 388

Rockville, CT 06066

 

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2004-276FD/paj/4/14/2005