FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Joanna Gemmell,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2004-341

Board of Education,

New Fairfield Public Schools,

 
  Respondent June 22, 2005
       

 

            The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on January 27, 2005, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, 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 of complaint dated July 31, 2004 and filed with the Commission on August 3, 2004, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (hereinafter “FOI”) Act by:

 

a.  discussing the approval and execution of a contract regarding an interim superintendent for the New Fairfield Public School System in an executive session held at a July 19, 2004 special meeting, without indicating on the agenda that such discussion would take place;

           

b.  failing to make available accurate motions and votes of a July 19, 2004 special meeting of the respondent board within forty-eight hours; and

 

            c.  lacking the proper authority to negotiate a contract with a candidate for the position of interim superintendent.

           

3.  With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2.c., above, it is concluded that such allegation does not allege a violation of the FOI Act, and therefore, such allegation shall not be addressed herein.

 

4.  With respect to the allegation as described in paragraph 2.a., above, 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.”

 

5.  Section 1-225(d), G.S., provides, in relevant part:

 

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.  The notice shall specify the time and place of the special meeting and the business to be transactedNo other business shall be considered at such meetings by such public agency…. [Emphasis added.]

 

6.  Section 1-225(f), G.S., in turn, provides in relevant part: 

[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.

7.  It is found that the notice of the meeting reads in relevant part:

 

I.  *Hiring Process and Contractual Matters

 

II.  Adjournment

 

*It is anticipated that the Board will enter into Executive Session.

 

8.  It is found that the respondent held a special meeting on July 19, 2004 (hereinafter “the meeting”).  It is found that during the respondent’s meeting, under item I of the agenda, the respondent discussed the ratification of a contract for the interim superintendent in the executive session.

 

9.  It is also found that the respondent’s notice for the meeting did not fairly apprise the public of the business to be transacted at such meeting.  Consequently, it is concluded that the respondent violated the notice provision of 1-225(d), G.S.

 

10.  With respect to the allegation as described in paragraph 2.b., above, section 1-210(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:  “Each …[public] agency shall make, keep and maintain a record of the proceedings of its meetings”.

 

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.  At the hearing in this matter, the respondent conceded, and it is therefore found, that the votes of the meeting were not available for public inspection within forty-eight hours of such meeting.  Accordingly, it is concluded that the respondent violated 1-225(a), G.S., by failing to timely make available such record within forty-eight hours, 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.  Henceforth, the respondent 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 June 22, 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:

 

Joanna Gemmell

45 Lavelle Avenue

New Fairfield, CT 06812

 

Board of Education,

New Fairfield Public Schools

Attn: Joseph Castagnola, Superintendent

3 Brush Hill Road

New Fairfield, CT 06812

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2004-341FD/paj/6/23/2005