FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Lorna Champagne,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2007-095

Board of Education, Canterbury

Public Schools,

 
  Respondent November 28, 2007
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 30, 2007, at which time the complainant and respondent 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 respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-200(1), G.S.

 

2.      It is found that by letter dated February 6, 2007, and filed on February 9, 2007, the complainant appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by convening an unnoticed meeting at which it acted on the contract of the former superintendent of Canterbury public schools, Dr. Sandra Suplicki.

 

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. 

 

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

(a) The meetings of all public agencies, except executive sessions, as defined in subdivision (6) of section 1-200, shall be open to the public . . .

 

. . .

 

(b) The chairperson or secretary of any such public agency of any political subdivision of the state shall file, not later than January thirty-first of each year, with the clerk of such subdivision the schedule of regular meetings of such public agency for the ensuing year, and no such meeting of any such public agency shall be held sooner than thirty days after such schedule has been filed. 

 

. . .

 

(d) 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 . . . .

 

5.      It is found that by letter dated January 18, 2007, the chairman of the respondent, in relevant part, wrote the following to Dr. Suplicki:

 

After careful consideration, it is the decision of the Canterbury Board of Education, that we will not be extending your contract beyond the current end date of June 30, 2007. 

 

The Board has decided it is in the best interest of the district to introduce new leadership for our educational community . . .

 

6.      It is found that after the complainant became aware of the January 18, 2007 letter described in paragraph 5, above, she reviewed the minutes of the respondent’s December 12, and 22, 2006, meetings and the January 16, 18, and 23, 2007, meetings and could not find a motion or vote which reflected the decision of the board described by the chairman in his January 18, 2007 letter.

 

7.      It is found that on October 24, 2006, the respondent held a meeting at which it convened two separate executive sessions during the first of which it discussed the written legal opinion it received from its attorney concerning the superintendent’s contract and during the second, the performance of Dr. Suplicki as the superintendent of schools.

 

8.      It is found that the respondent learned from its attorney that no action had to be taken with respect to Dr. Suplicki’s contract if the respondent did not intend to renew such contract.

 

9.      It is found that the respondent did not vote on Dr. Suplicki’s contract but rather voted to initiate a search for a new superintendent of schools.

 

10.   It is found that the chairman of the respondent gleaned from the discussions during the two executive sessions described in paragraph 7, above, that the board would not renew Dr. Suplicki’s contract and would simply allow it to lapse.  It is found that the chairman wrote and sent the letter described in paragraph 5, above, upon his own initiative based upon his assessment of the board’s collective mind.  It is found that it was the intention of the chairman to provide Dr. Suplicki with as much advance notice of the board’s intention as possible.

 

11.   It is found that no secret or unnoticed meetings of the respondent occurred at which it discussed and voted to take action with respect to Dr. Suplicki’s contract.

 

12.   It is concluded, therefore, that the respondent did not violate the FOI Act by conducting an unnoticed meeting at which it acted on Dr. Suplicki’s contract as alleged by the complainant.

 

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.

2.      While not fairly raised in the complaint in this matter, it is difficult to imagine that the chairman of the respondent could have written the January letter described in paragraph 5 of the findings, above, with such definite language had not some consensus, tantamount to a vote, been reached by the board during its October 24, 2006 executive sessions. 

 

            Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of November 28, 2007.

 

 

________________________________

Wendy R.B. Paradis

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:

 

Lorna Champagne

172 Bingham Road

Canterbury, CT  06331

 

Board of Education,

Canterbury Public Schools

c/o Mark J. Sommaruga, Esq.

Sullivan, Schoen, Campane & Connon, LLC

646 Prospect Avenue

Hartford, CT  06105

 

___________________________________

Wendy R.B. Paradis

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2007-095FD/wrbp/11/30/2007