FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

Pauline Andruskiewicz,

Leslie Kornosewicz, Sue Hess

and Heidi Liebal,

 
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2004-250

Robert Maurice, Chairman,

Board of Finance, Town of Preston;

Harvey Beeman, Gail Beauregard,

Tim Schulz, Keith Wucik and Ken Zachem,

as members, Board of Finance,

Town of Preston; and Board of Finance,

Town of Preston,

 
  Respondents May 25, 2005
       

 

            The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 4, 2004, at which time the complainants and the respondents 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 of complaint dated May 28, 2004 and filed with the Commission on June 2, 2004, the complainants appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (hereinafter “FOI”) Act by:

 

a.  conducting an emergency meeting of April 15, 2004, (hereinafter “the April 15, 2004 meeting”) for a purpose that did not constitute an emergency within the meaning of the FOI Act and failing to give sufficient notice of such meeting;

           

b.  failing to make votes of the April 15, 2004 meeting available for public inspection within forty-eight hours and failing to make the minutes available within seventy-two hours;

 

c.  conducting an emergency meeting on May 18, 2004 (hereinafter “the May 18, 2004 meeting”) for a purpose that did not constitute an emergency within the meaning of the FOI Act and failing to give sufficient notice of such meeting;

 

d.  failing to make the minutes of a May 12, 2004 regular meeting (hereinafter “the May 12, 2004 meeting”) available for review within seven days; and

 

e.  failing to make available accurate motions and votes of the May 18, 2004 meeting of the respondent board.

 

            The complainants requested that the Commission declare null and void any action taken by the respondents at the meetings of April 15, 2004 and May 18, 2004.  The complainants also requested the imposition of civil penalties against the named respondents.

3.  Section 1-206(b)(1), G.S., in relevant part, provides:

Any person denied the right to inspect or copy records under section 1-210 or wrongfully denied the right to attend any meeting of a public agency or denied any other 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 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].

 

4.  With respect to the allegations described in paragraph 2a and 2b, above, it is concluded that the complaint is not timely filed, within the meaning of 1-206(b)(1), G.S., and consequently this Commission lacks jurisdiction to hear such allegations.

5.  Section 1-225(a), G.S., requires 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.”

6.  Section 1-225(d), G.S., further provides:

“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…Such notice shall be given not less than twenty-four hours prior to the time of the special meeting; provided, in case of emergency … any such special meeting may be held without complying with the foregoing requirement for the filing of notice but a copy of the minutes of every such emergency special meeting adequately setting forth the nature of the emergency and the proceedings occurring at such meeting shall be filed with the … clerk of such political subdivision…not later than seventy-two hours following the holding of such meeting.  The notice shall specify the time and place of the special meeting and the business to be transacted.  No other business shall be considered at such meetings by such public agency….”

 

7.  With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2c, above, it is found that the minutes of the respondent board’s May 18, 2004 meeting that set forth the nature of the emergency as follows:

 

“The purpose for calling the emergency meeting was to discuss & clarify a motion made at the Board of Finance’s 5/12/04 Meeting.”

 

8.  The respondents contend that the meeting described in paragraph 2c, above was held on May 18, 2004, because it was discovered that there was a discrepancy in the minutes of the May 12, 2004 meeting concerning the proposed amount budgeted to the Preston Board of Education.  Rather than cancel an upcoming scheduled town meeting and subsequent referendum vote, the respondent board determined that an emergency existed and that the board should hold an emergency meeting on May 18, 2004 to clarify the proposed budgeted amount for notice purposes regarding the town meeting.

 

9.  The respondents contend that they felt compelled to act immediately.  Even assuming that this was the case, it is found that the respondents reasonably could have issued twenty-four hours notice to the public and convened a special meeting thereafter. It is found that the respondents’ need to hold a meeting for the purpose stated in paragraph 7, above, did not constitute an “emergency”, within the meaning of 1-225(d), G.S.

            10.  It is therefore concluded that the respondents violated 1-225(a) and 1-225(d), G.S., when they held the emergency meeting described in paragraph 7, above, when no emergency situation existed, as alleged in paragraph 2c, above.

11.    Section 1-225(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:

 

“[t]he votes of each member of any … public agency upon any issue before such public agency shall be reduced to writing and made available for public inspection within forty-eight hours and shall also be recorded in the minutes of the session at which taken, which minutes shall be available for public inspection within seven days of the session to which they refer.”

            12.  With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2e, above, it is found that the respondents failed to have the votes of the May 18, 2004 meeting available for public inspection within forty-eight hours of such meeting.  Consequently, it is concluded that the respondents violated 1-225(a), G.S., in such regard. 

            13.  At the hearing in this matter, the complainants contended that the minutes of the May 18, 2004 meeting reflect a false statement regarding a motion to rescind made at the May 12, 2004 meeting.

            14.  However, it is found that minutes of the May 18, 2004 meeting accurately reflect the motions and votes at such meeting.  Therefore, it is concluded that the respondents did not violate 1-225(a), G.S., in such regard. 

15.  With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2d, above, the respondents concede, and it is therefore found, that the May 12, 2004 meeting minutes were not available within seven days of such meeting.  Accordingly, it is concluded that the respondents violated 1-225(a), G.S., as alleged in paragraph 2d, above.

            16.  The Commission declines to consider the imposition of civil penalties against the respondents in this matter and declines to declare null and void the actions taken by the respondents at the May 18, 2004 meeting.

The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:

1.  Henceforth, the respondents shall strictly comply with the notice and meeting requirements set forth at 1-225(a) and 1-225(d), G.S.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 25, 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:

 

Pauline Andruskiewicz

68 Cooktown Road

Preston, CT 06365

 

Leslie Kornosewicz

54 Benjamin Road

Preston, CT 06365

 

Sue Hess

18 Bunny Road

Preston, CT 06365

 

Heidi Liebal

479 Route 165

Preston, CT 06365

 

Robert Maurice, Chairman,

Board of Finance, Town of Preston;

Harvey Beeman, Gail Beauregard,

Tim Schulz, Keith Wucik and Ken Zachem,

as members, Board of Finance,

Town of Preston; and Board of Finance,

Town of Preston

c/o Frank A. Manfredi, Esq.

PO Box 105

Yantic, CT 06389

 

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2004-250FD/paj/5/26/2005