FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

Preston D. Shultz and the Citizens

for Prudent Spending,

 
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2005-230
Board of Selectmen, Town of Woodstock,  
  Respondent September 28, 2005
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on August 4, 2005, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  At the hearing on this matter, the complainant, Mr. Shultz, indicated that his intention was to file a complaint against the Board of Selectmen, Town of Woodstock, and not against the Board of Finance, Town of Woodstock.  Mr. Shultz further indicated that he filed the complaint on behalf of himself and Citizens for Prudent Spending, which he represents.  The case caption has been amended accordingly.

 

 

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 May 18, 2005 and filed on May 19, 2005, the complainant appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by conducting an unnoticed meeting on May 10, 2005 at approximately 3:00 p.m., and by not filing an agenda or minutes for such meeting (hereinafter “the May 10, 2005 meeting”). 

 

3.      It is found that, on May 10, 2005, the following town of Woodstock officials were invited and attended a meeting initiated by the chairman of the Board of Finance (hereinafter “the chairman”): First Selectman; Town Treasurer; Superintendent of Schools; Assistant to the Superintendent of Schools; Tax Collector; and Vice Chairman of the Board of Finance.

 

4.      It is found that the chairman requested the May 10, 2005 meeting to discuss and gather information in preparation for a budget meeting of the Board of Finance scheduled to take place after the May 10, 2005 meeting.  It is found that the chairman specifically wanted to insure that the Tax Collector would be comfortable with a higher tax rate as he was going to make that recommendation at the Board of Finance meeting, and to give the First Selectman and the Superintendent notice of the budget concessions he would request from them.

 

5.      It is found that during the meeting the chairman was informed by the Tax Collector that she was comfortable with a tax rate increase, by the First Selectman that she would insist on funds to purchase a certain truck for the town, and by the Superintendent that he would insist on funds for a school bus.

 

6.      It is found that no votes were taken at the May 10, 2005 meeting nor did the respondent take or file minutes of the May 10, 2005 meeting.

 

7.      It is found that the Third Selectman was in town hall on other business, found the meeting in progress and joined it within ten minutes of its convening.  It is found that his participation was limited to listening.

 

8.      Section 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.” 

 

9.      Section 1-200(2), G.S., further provides that:

 

. . . ‘meeting’ means 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 … to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power.

 

10.   It is found that the respondent is a multimember public agency, consisting of three members, and that two members of the respondent, comprising a quorum, convened or assembled on May 10, 2005.

 

11.   It is also found that the discussions that took place at the May 10, 2005 meeting constituted communication to a quorum of the respondent, and concerned substantive issues over which the respondent, as the governing body of the town, has “supervision and advisory power”, within the meaning of 1-200(2), G.S.

 

12.   It is further found that the discussions that took place at such meeting do not fall within any of the exclusions to the “meeting” definition as set forth in 1-200(2), G.S.

13.   It is therefore, concluded that the May 10, 2005 meeting and discussions described in paragraphs 3 through 7, above, constituted a “meeting,” as defined in 1-200(2), G.S., and consequently, that the respondent violated 1-225(a), G.S., by failing to hold such meeting in a manner that was open to the public.

 

14.   It is also concluded that such meeting was a special meeting within the meaning of 1-225(a), G.S., which provides, in relevant part that “. . .  minutes shall be available for public inspection within seven days of the session to which they refer.”

 

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

 

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 … The … clerk shall cause any notice received under this section to be posted in his office… 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.

 

16.   It is found that the respondent failed to file notice of the May 10, 2005 meeting with the clerk as required by 1-225(d), G.S.

 

17.   It is therefore concluded that the respondent violated 1-225(d), G.S., when it failed to provide notice to the town clerk of the May 10, 2005 meeting.

 

18.   It is also concluded that the respondent violated 1-225(a), G.S., when it failed to file minutes of the May 10, 2005 meeting within seven days of that meeting.

 

19.   It is found that neither the chairman, the First Selectman, nor the Third Selectman acted in bad faith by initiating or attending the May 10, 2005 meeting. However it is apparent that the Woodstock Town officials would benefit from a Freedom of Information Act workshop conducted by a member of the staff of this Commission.  The Commission strongly encourages the respondent to make arrangements for such a workshop for the Town of Woodstock Officials.

 

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

 

1.      The respondent shall generate minutes of the May 10, 2005 special meeting described in paragraph 3 through 7 of the findings, above, which minutes, at the minimum, shall record the time, date and place of the May 10, 2005 special meeting, the members of the respondent board that attended the meeting, the subjects of discussion, and any other pertinent information so that the public may be apprised of what took place at such meeting.  A copy of such minutes shall be provided to the complainants, free of charge, within 7 days of the notice of the final decision in the case.

 

2.      Henceforth, the respondent shall strictly comply with the provision of 1-225, G.S.

 

3.      The respondent is encouraged to forthwith contact the staff of the FOI Commission in connection with scheduling a FOI Act workshop.

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of September 28, 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:

 

            Preston D. Shultz and the Citizens

for Prudent Spending

PO Box 285

Woodstock, CT 06281

 

Board of Selectmen,

Town of Woodstock

c/o Charles R. Andres, Esq.

Tyler Cooper & Alcorn, LLP

205 Church Street

PO Box 1936

New Haven, CT 06509-1910

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2005-230FD/paj/10/6/2005