FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|against||Docket #FIC 2006-368|
Board of Education, Wallingford
|Respondent||February 28, 2007|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 30, 2006, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. This matter was consolidated for hearing with docket #FIC 2006-369, Michelle Russo v. Board of Education, Wallingford Public Schools and docket #FIC 2006-398, Wesley S. Lubee, Jr. v. Board of Education, Wallingford Public Schools.
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 18, 2006, and filed on July 20, 2006, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by reaching a consensus not to renew an employment contract with Kenneth V. Henrici, Superintendent, Wallingford Public Schools (hereinafter “the superintendent”) during an executive session, and failing to record the consensus taken in such executive session.
3. Section 1-206(b)(1), G.S., provides in relevant part:
“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….”
4. It is found that the complainant received notice in fact of the alleged meetings on July 17, 2006, during a special meeting of the respondent. It is further found that this complaint was filed within thirty days after the July 17, 2006, meeting. Accordingly, it is concluded that the Commission has jurisdiction to hear this appeal.
5. Section 1-225(a), G.S., provides, in relevant part:
The 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 1-200(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…[Emphasis added].
7. Section 1-225(f), G.S., further provides:
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.
8. It is found that the respondent’s agenda for a January 19, 2006, special meeting indicated the following in relevant part:
E.1 Board Update on Inquiry Regarding the Superintendent of Schools and the School Business Manager”
9. It is found that the respondent conducted a special meeting on January 19, 2006, and voted to enter executive session. It is also found that during the January 19th executive session, the respondent discussed its dissatisfaction with the superintendent’s performance. More specifically, thoughts and ideas were exchanged relating to whether or not to renew the superintendent’s contract. The purpose of the meeting was to get new members of the respondent familiar with the issue. Thomas Hennessey, chairman of the respondent board, tabled the matter since some board members were absent.
10. It is found that a consensus was not reached by the respondent board during the January 19, 2006, special meeting. Therefore, it is concluded that the respondent did not violate the FOI Act regarding such meeting, as alleged in the complaint.
11. It is found that the respondent conducted a special meeting on February 6, 2006 and voted to enter executive session.
12. It is further found that the respondent’s agenda for the February 6, 2006, special meeting indicated the following, in relevant part:
E.1 Board Update on Inquiry Regarding the Superintendent of Schools and the School Business Manager.”
13. It is found that during the February 6th executive session, the respondent further discussed the performance of the school district and the leadership style of the superintendent. It is found that during such session, a consensus was reached that a leadership group of the board would meet with the superintendent to discuss these issues.
14. It is found that a board leadership group met with the superintendent in his office on or about February 21, 2006, wherein the superintendent’s leadership style and the board’s dissatisfaction with him were discussed. It is found that such meeting was a “meeting” of the respondent board, within the meaning of §1-225(a), G.S., to which the public was not invited.
15. It is found that following the February 21, 2006 meeting, it was understood that the superintendent would resign from his office, effective at the end of his contract and that the respondent would provide the superintendent with a letter of reference designed to maintain his marketability. It is further found that this was a meeting of the respondent board wherein a consensus was reached, as described in paragraph 14, above.
16. It is found that the respondent board discussed the matters described in paragraphs 13 and 14, above, and came to a consensus during the February 6th executive session and during the February 21, 2006 meeting described therein.
17. It is found that each consensus described in paragraphs 13 and 14, above, was tantamount to a vote. It is further found that the minutes of the February 6, 2006, meeting did not describe such consensus, and do not indicate that any vote was taken. It is also found that no minutes of the February 21, 2006 meeting exist.
18. It is concluded that the respondent violated §§1-225(a) and 1-200(6), G.S., as alleged in paragraph 2, above.
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 open meetings provisions set forth in §1-225(a), G.S.
2. The respondent shall forthwith cause the minutes of its February 6th special meeting to be amended to accurately reflect how its members voted on the issues described in paragraph 13.
3. The respondent shall forthwith create accurate minutes of its February 21, 2006 special meeting, which minutes should reflect how its members voted on the issues described in paragraph 14, above.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of February 28, 2007.
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:
16 Doherty Drive
Wallingford, CT 06492
Board of Education, Wallingford
c/o Peter A. Janus, Esq.
150 Trumbull Street
Hartford, CT 06103
Petrea A. Jones
Acting Clerk of the Commission