FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Paul R. Neugebauer,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2004-449

Board of Fire Commissioners,

City of Bridgeport,

 
  Respondent April 13, 2005
       

  

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 2, 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 respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-200(1), G.S.

 

2.  By letter dated September 28, 2004, and filed on October 1, 2004, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information [hereinafter “FOI”] Act on September 22, 2004, as follows:

 

a.  holding a discussion outside the public’s view among two members of the respondent commission and an attorney for the City of Bridgeport, John  Mitola; and

 

b.  improperly conducting an executive session. 

 

The complainant requested that the decisions reached during the meeting at issue be declared null and void.

 

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….”        

 

            4.  Section 1-225, G.S., in relevant part provides that: 

 

(a)  [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….

 

(c)  …[u]pon the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of a public agency present and voting, any subsequent business not included in such filed agendas may be considered and acted upon at such meetings.

 

(f)  [a] public agency may hold an executive session as defined in subdivision (6) of section 1-200, 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 section 1-200.

 

5.  Section 1-200(6), G.S., defines “executive session” to include:

 

…a meeting of a public agency at which the public is excluded for one or more of the following purposes: …  strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims or pending litigation to which the public agency or a member thereof, because of his conduct as a member of such agency, is a party until such litigation or claim has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled….

 

6.  It is found that the respondent board conducted a regular meeting on September 22, 2004 [hereinafter “the meeting”]. 

 

7.  With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2.a, above, it is found that during course of the meeting, the vice president of the respondent requested a recess so that she could consult with counsel, Attorney Mitola.  It is further found that the respondent briefly recessed, that the vice president and Attorney Mitola had a discussion during such recess, and that at some point during such discussion, a second member of the respondent joined the vice president and Attorney Mitola.  

 

8.  It is found that the respondent board consists of seven members and that four members constitute a quorum. 

 

9.  It is found that the discussion described in paragraph 7, above, did not constitute a hearing or other proceeding of the respondent, a convening or assembly of a quorum of the respondent, or a communication by or to a quorum of the respondent.  It is therefore concluded that such discussion did not constitute a “meeting” within the meaning of 1-200(2), G.S.  

 

            10.  It is concluded that the respondent did not violate the FOI Act, as alleged in paragraph 2.a, above.

 

            11.  With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2.b, above, it is found that during the meeting, the respondent voted to add an executive session [hereinafter “the executive session”] to its agenda by a two-thirds vote and then voted to enter such session by a two-thirds vote.  

           

            12.  It is found that the stated purpose of such executive session was to discuss strategy with respect to a pending federal lawsuit, which the complainant had brought against the respondent board. 

 

13.  It is found that the executive session was called and conducted properly under the provisions of 1-225 and 1-200(6), G.S.  

 

            14.  It is therefore concluded that the respondent did not violate the FOI Act as alleged in paragraph 2.b, above. 

 

        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:

 

Paul R. Neugebauer

35 Batt Lane

West Haven, CT 06516

 

Board of Fire Commissioners,

City of Bridgeport

c/o John H. Barton, Esq.

Associate City Attorney

999 Broad Street, 2nd floor

Bridgeport, CT 06604

 

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2004-449FD/paj/4/14/2005