FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

Rachel Gottlieb and

the Hartford Courant,

 
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2004-519

I. Michael Borrero, Chairman,

Board of Education, Hartford

Public Schools; Elizabeth Brad

Noel, Ada Miranda, Robert

Long and Michael Lupo, as

members, Board of Education,

Hartford Public Schools; and

Board of Education, Hartford

Public Schools,

 
  Respondents September 14, 2005
       

           

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 15, 2005, 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.  It is found that the respondent held a special meeting on October 26, 2004 [hereinafter “the meeting”], during which it convened in executive session for the stated purpose of discussing “personnel issues” [hereinafter “the executive session”].

 

3.  It is found that, during the executive session, the respondent board discussed whether to extend the contract of the superintendent of the Hartford Public Schools and also discussed ways to improve the school system.  It is also found that the respondent board came to a consensus during the session that it would postpone a decision regarding extending the superintendent’s contract.  It is further found that the respondent voted in open session at a subsequent meeting to extend such contract.   

 

4.  It is found that the respondent board created minutes of the meeting and executive session, which minutes fully describe the matters discussed therein and which minutes are available for public inspection.

 

5.  By letter of complaint dated November 5, 2004, and filed on November 17, 2004, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information [hereinafter “FOI”] Act as follows:

 

a.       improperly adding an item to the agenda of the meeting;

 

b.      voting to delay action on the superintendent’s contract in executive session;

 

c.       failing to notify the superintendent of the Hartford Public Schools that his contract would be discussed in the session. 

 

The complainants seek the imposition of civil penalties against the respondents. 

 

6.  With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 5.a, above, 1-225(d), G.S., provides in relevant part:

 

“[n]otice of each special meeting…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.  It is found that the notice of the meeting specified the following business to be transacted: “executive session – to discuss personnel issues.”   It is further found that the discussions of the superintendent’s contract and of ways to improve the school system were not listed on the respondent board’s notice for the meeting.  Consequently, it is found that such discussions constituted business other than that specified on such notice. 

 

8.  It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-225(d), G.S., as alleged in paragraph 5.a, above.   

 

9.  With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 5.b, 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.”

 

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

 

“a meeting of a public agency at which the public is excluded for one or more of the following purposes: (A)  Discussion 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;  (B)  strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims or pending litigation to which the public agency or a member thereof, because of the member’s conduct as a member of such agency, is a party until such litigation or claim has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled;  (C)  matters concerning security strategy or the deployment of security personnel, or devices affecting public security;  (D)  discussion of the selection of a site or the lease, sale or purchase of real estate by a political subdivision of the state when publicity regarding such site, lease, sale, purchase or construction would cause a likelihood of increased price until such time as all of the property has been acquired or all proceedings or transactions concerning same have been terminated or abandoned; and  (E)  discussion of any matter which would result in the disclosure of public records or the information contained therein described in subsection (b) of section 1-210.”

 

            11.  It is found that the consensus described in paragraph 3, above, is tantamount to a vote, and that such vote is not permissible within the meaning of 1-200(6), G.S.

 

12.   It is concluded that the respondents violated 1-225(a) and 1-200(6), G.S., as alleged in paragraph 5.b, above.   

 

13.  With respect to paragraph 5.c, above, 1-206(b)(1), G.S., provides in relevant part that:  

 

“[a]ny 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 [FOI] Act may appeal therefrom to the [FOI] Commission, by filing a notice of appeal with said commission….”

 

            14.  It is found that the complainants are not persons denied the right to notification as alleged in paragraph 5.c, above.  Rather, it is found that such person is the superintendent of the Hartford Public Schools.  Accordingly, it is concluded that the Commission lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the allegation described in paragraph 5.c, above, and it will not be further addressed herein.

 

            15.  The Commission declines in its discretion to consider the imposition of civil penalties in this matter.  

 

 

             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 provisions of 1-225(a), 1-225(d), and 1-200(6), G.S.

 

  2.  Although not specifically raised in the complaint, the Commission advises the respondents that a discussion of ways to improve the school system is not a proper purpose for executive session. 

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of September 14, 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:

 

Rachel Gottlieb and

the Hartford Courant

285 Broad Street

Hartford, CT 06115

 

I. Michael Borrero, Chairman,

Board of Education, Hartford

Public Schools; Elizabeth Brad

Noel, Ada Miranda, Robert

Long and Michael Lupo, as

members, Board of Education,

Hartford Public Schools; and

Board of Education, Hartford

Public Schools

c/o Ann F. Bird, Esq.

Assistant Corporation Counsel

550 Main Street

Hartford, CT 06103

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2004-519FD/paj/9/15/2005