FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

Fred Musante and the Stratford Star,

 
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2006-412
Town Council, Town of Stratford,  
  Respondent August 8, 2007
       

  

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 31, 2006, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared.  The complainants presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  However, the respondent only provided legal argument on the complaint at that time.

 

Pursuant to the Commission’s vote at its May 9, 2007 meeting, the above-captioned matter was reopened for a hearing for the respondent to present testimony, which hearing was held on June 12, 2007.

 

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 August 16, 2006, and filed on August 17, 2006, the complainants appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by permitting the attendance of an individual who was not a member of the respondent town council at its Democratic caucus and thereby, excluding the public from a meeting of a public agency and for failing to file notice of the same.  The complainants requested that the respondent town council be ordered to attend an FOI Commission workshop.

 

3.      Section 1-200(2), G.S., provides in relevant part 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, whether in person or by means of electronic equipment, to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power.  “Meeting” does not include . . . a caucus of members of a single political party notwithstanding that such members also constitute a quorum of a public agency. . . .” 

 

4.      Section 1-200(3), G.S., provides in relevant part that  “ ‘[c]aucus’  means . . . a convening or assembly of the enrolled members of a single political party who are members of a public agency within the state or a political subdivision . . . .”

 

5.      It is found that four Democratic members of the respondent gathered together, with a member of the mayor’s staff, on August 14, 2006, in a conference room of the Stratford town hall (hereinafter the “August 14, 2006 gathering”). 

 

6.      It is found that the August 14, 2006 gathering took place approximately fifteen minutes prior to the respondent’s meeting scheduled for that evening.

 

7.      It is found that, at the time of the August 14, 2006 gathering, there were 10 members of the respondent – six were members of the Republican Party and four were members of the Democratic Party.  It is found that six members are required for a quorum of the respondent.  It is found that the mayor of Stratford is a Democrat.

 

8.      It is found that the sole purpose of the August 14, 2006 gathering was to inform the Democrats of the mayor’s position on the matters to be discussed, and any comments he might make, at the respondent’s meeting.  It is found that the mayor was unable to attend the gathering and a member of his staff attended on his behalf. 

 

9.       It is found that during the August 14, 2006 gathering, the staff member presented the mayor’s position on the items of business on the respondent’s agenda for its August 14, 2006 meeting and answered questions that were asked by the Democrats to clarify the mayor’s position. 

 

10.   It is found that when the complainant and another member of the public happened upon the gathering, they were informed that the gathering was a caucus.

 

11.   It is found, however, that because of the staff member’s participation, by way of his presentation, at the August 14, 2006 gathering, that gathering did not constitute a “caucus” within the meaning of 1-200(3), G.S.

 

12.   It is also found, however, that the Democrats were not commissioned or otherwise authorized by the respondent to meet with the mayor on behalf of the respondent.

 

13.   It is also found that there was no quorum of the respondent and that therefore the respondent could not conduct business at the August 14, 2006 gathering.

 

14.   It is further found that the Democrats and the mayor, who is an ex-officio member of the respondent, do not represent a majority of the voting members of the respondent such that they could control the actions of the respondent on a particular issue at a meeting.

 

15.   It is also found that the Democrats and the mayor did not report to the respondent or otherwise advance the business of the respondent.

 

16.   It is also found that there was no discussion among the Democrats nor did they take any action at the August 14, 2006 gathering.

 

17.   It is concluded, therefore, that the August 14, 2006 gathering did not constitute a “meeting” of the respondent within the meaning of 1-200(2), G.S.

 

18.   Based upon the facts and circumstances of this case, it is concluded, that the respondent did not violate the Freedom of Information Act when its Democratic members met on August 14, 2006.

 

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

 

1.      The complaint is hereby dismissed.

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of August 8, 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:

 

Fred Musante and the Stratford Star

1000 Bridgeport Avenue

Shelton, CT 06484

 

Town Council,

Town of Stratford

c/o Warren L. Holcomb, Esq.

Berchem, Moses & Devlin, P.C.

75 Broad Street

Milford, CT 06460

 

The Hartford Courant, intervenor

c/o Paul Guggina, Esq.

Tyler, Cooper & Alcorn, LLP

185 Asylum Street

Hartford, CT 06103

 

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2006-412FD/paj/8/8/2007