FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Susan Case and James Downey,  
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2006-498

Board of Governors, Cornfield Point

Association,

 
  Respondent September 12, 2007
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 10, and November 8, 2006, at which times the complainants and respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  For purposes of hearing, the above-captioned matter was consolidated with Docket #FIC 2006-425, Robert R. Coty, Catherine B. Dangona, Lycurgus M. Davey, Terry Donovan, Gregory H. Gernhardt, Peter Kalousdian, Abdul Khaliq, Mujeeb Khalique, Barbara J. Masters, Henry W. Nozko, Jr., Mary Smith and Ronald Tenay v. Paula Satmary, President, Board of Governors, Cornfield Point Association; Lewis Perry, Vice-President, Board of Governors, Cornfield Point Association; Cathryn Flanagan, Secretary, Board of Governors, Cornfield Point Association; Donald Olivieri, Treasurer, Board of Governors, Cornfield Point Association; Ken Anderson, Donald Brewer, Joanne Civitillo, Tedd Levy, Donald Ranaudo, as members, Board of Governors, Cornfield Point Association; and Board of Governors, Cornfield Point Association.

 

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 September 24, 2006, and filed on September 26, 2006, the complainants appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by:

 

a.       violating the stipulation agreement that led to the withdrawal of the complaint in Docket #FIC 2005-507, Ronald Tenay and Peter Kalousdian v. Paula Satmary, President, Board of Governors, Cornfield Point Association; Lewis Perry, Vice-President, Board of Governors, Cornfield Point Association; Cathryn Flanagan, Secretary, Board of Governors, Cornfield Point Association; Donald Olivieri, Treasurer, Board of Governors, Cornfield Point Association; Ken Anderson, Donald Brewer, Joanne Civitillo, Tedd Levy, and Donald Ranaudo, as members, Board of Governors, Cornfield Point Association; and Board of Governors, Cornfield Point Association (hereinafter “Docket #FIC 2005-507”);

 

b.      failing to mail notice of the continuation of the Cornfield Point Association’s (hereinafter “association”) July 8, 2006 special meeting in accordance with the association’s charter provisions;

 

c.       failing to specify the time and place in the order of adjournment of the association’s July 8, 2006 special meeting in violation of 1-228, G.S.;

 

d.      failing to post a copy of the order or notice of adjournment on or near the door of the building in which the association held its July 8, 2006 special meeting within twenty-four hours after the time of the adjournment or at any time, in violation of 1-228, G.S.;

 

e.       mandating that a final vote on the entire proposed charter, as it was amended, be taken at the August 26, 2006 meeting, despite the fact that the membership voted to call a separate meeting for this purpose;

 

f.        delaying the continuation of the July 8, 2006 special meeting to August 26, 2006, when many of the association members have left for their regular residences, thereby wrongfully denying those members the right to attend the August 26, 2006 special meeting in violation of 1-206, G.S.

 

g.       using certain parliamentary rules to deny members the right to fully consider whether the August 26, 2006 special meeting should have been postponed until a time of year when summer residents could more easily have attended the meeting;

 

h.       conducting the August 26, 2006 special meeting in a manner that limited the ability of opponents of the charter revision to set forth their reasons for opposing the measure;

 

i.         ignoring an alleged motion to vote by paper ballot on an certain issue; and

 

j.        conducting a certain vote in a manner that cast doubt on the validity of that vote.

The complainants requested certain remedies for the alleged violations described, above, which included the imposition of a one thousand dollar civil penalty against each of the named respondents and that the August 26, 2006 special meeting, and actions taken at it, be declared null and void.

 

3.      It is found that the respondent is a nine-member board that governs the respondent association.

 

4.      It is found that the complainants and the members of the respondent own property in the Cornfield Point section of Old Saybrook, Connecticut and as owners, are members of the association.

 

5.       It is found that pursuant to a vote of the association membership, the charter revision committee of the association submitted its charter revision proposals to the respondent on or about September 26, 2005. 

 

6.      It is found that two of the members of the association’s charter revision committee filed a complaint with the Commission alleging that the association had committed certain violations of the FOI Act.

 

7.      It is found that the complaint described in paragraph 6, above, was docketed as Docket #FIC 2005-507.

 

8.      It is found, however, that the complaint described in paragraphs 6 and 7, above, was withdrawn pursuant to an agreement reached between the parties and before a hearing was held in the matter.

 

9.      With respect to the complainants’ allegation described in paragraph 2a, above, it is found that the parties voluntarily entered into a settlement agreement in the resolution of their dispute in Docket #FIC 2005-507.  It is found that the relevant portion of the settlement agreement required the respondent to conduct a meeting, originally scheduled for the fall of 2005, on July 8th of 2006 at which meeting business related to the respondent association’s charter revisions would be conducted.

 

10.   It is found that the respondent association held the meeting on July 8, 2006 pursuant to the stipulation agreement and conducted business related to its charter.  It is also found however, that after almost four hours, Ronald Tenay, a complainant in Docket #FIC 2005-507 and a party to the stipulation agreement described in paragraphs 8 and 9, above, made a motion to adjourn the meeting even though the business related to the charter was not completed.  It is found that a vote was taken by the membership of the respondent association to adjourn the meeting and it was so adjourned.

 

11.   It is found that based upon the facts and circumstances of this case, the settlement agreement described in paragraphs 8 and 9, above, was not violated as alleged by the complainants.

 

12.  With respect to the allegations described in paragraphs 2b, 2e, 2g, 2h, 2i and 2j, above, it is found that the complainants have not alleged a violation of the FOI Act and such allegations will not be addressed herein.

 

13.  With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2c and 2d, above, 1-228, G.S., provides that:

 

The public agency may adjourn any regular or special meeting to a time and place specified in the order of adjournment . . . A copy of the order or notice of adjournment shall be conspicuously posted on or near the door of the place where the regular or special meeting was held, within twenty-four hours after the time of the adjournment. 

 

14.   It is found that the association held a special meeting on July 8, 2006 which meeting was called to order at 9:12 on that morning and adjourned at approximately 12:40 on that afternoon.

 

15.   It is found that the association noticed a separate meeting to be held on August 26, 2006 to continue the business it did not complete at the July 8, 2006 meeting.

 

16.   It is found that the respondent caused the notice of the August 26, 2006 special meeting to be published in the newspaper, posted on its bulletin board and had the notice mailed to the members of the association on August 15, 2006.

 

17.   It is found that the continuation of business from one noticed meeting to a subsequent noticed meeting does not automatically invoke the requirements found in 1-228, G.S., nor does the use of the word “adjourn,” which is used regularly by the respondent association to indicate that its meetings have concluded.

 

18.   It is also found that the provisions in 1-228, G.S., are permissive. 

 

19.   It is further found that the respondent association did not issue an “order of adjournment” within the meaning of 1-228, G.S., at its July 8, 2006 special meeting but rather concluded that meeting with the intention to continue the business being conducted at a subsequent special meeting, which would be noticed at a later date.

 

20.   It is found, therefore, that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, the provisions of 1-228, G.S., are not applicable and it is concluded that the respondents have not violated the FOI Act in that regard.

 

21.   It is found that the respondent association issued a notice for a separate special meeting on August 26, 2006, in accordance with the provisions of 1-225(d), G.S., as described in paragraphs 15 through 17, above.

 

22.   It is found, therefore, that the provisions of 1-225(d), G.S., are applicable in this regard; however, the complainants did not allege a violation of 1-225(d), G.S., in this complaint and compliance with that provision will not be addressed herein.

 

23.   With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2f, above, 1-206, G.S., provides in relevant part:

 

(b)(1) Any person  . . . wrongfully denied the right to attend any meeting of a public agency . . . may appeal therefrom to the Freedom of Information Commission, by filing a notice of appeal with said Commission . . . .

 

24.   It is found that the rights in 1-206(b)(1), G.S., are not applicable to the allegation described in paragraph 2f, above, and furthermore, it is found that the respondent association has not precluded the complainants from filing a notice of appeal to this Commission with respect to that allegation. 

 

25.   However, 1-225(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that “[t]he meetings of all public agencies  . . . shall be open to the public.”

 

26.   It is found that the respondent association did not preclude any member of the public, or of the respondent association, from attending or otherwise being privy to the discussions and deliberations of the August 26, 2006 special meeting.

 

27.   It is found that the FOI Act does not require a public agency to set the date and time of its meetings in a manner that ensures the attendance of members of the public, or even members of the public agency, beyond providing notice pursuant to 1-225, G.S.  It is also found that the FOI Act does not require a public agency to set the date and time of its meetings in a manner that ensures that it is convenient for interested parties to attend, even if those parties are members of the public agency, beyond providing notice pursuant to 1-225, G.S.

 

28.   It is found that the respondent association did not violate the FOI Act in scheduling the August 26, 2006 special meeting.

 

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 special meeting of September 12, 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:

 

Susan Case and James Downey

c/o Terry Donovan, Esq.

123 Elm Street

PO Box 554

Old Saybrook, CT 06475

 

Board of Governors, Cornfield Point

Association

c/o Kenneth H. Antin, Esq.

Poliner, Poliner, Antin, & Cienava Rocco, PC

516 Main Street

Middletown, CT 06457

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2006-498FD/paj/9/14/2007