FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Bradshaw Smith,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2007-355

Richard F. Messenger, Member,

Board of Directors, Greater Hartford

Transit District; Stephen F. Mitchell,

Member, Board of Directors,

Greater Hartford Transit District;

and Greater Hartford Transit District,

 
  Respondents December 12, 2007
       

                                                                                               

            The above-captioned matter was consolidated for hearing with Docket #FIC 2006-355, with an amended caption Bradshaw Smith v. Stephen F. Mitchell, As a Member, Board of Directors, Greater Hartford Transit District; Frank Lord, As a Member, Personnel Committee, Greater Hartford Transit District; and Personnel Committee, Greater Hartford Transit District. Both matters were heard as contested cases on October 23, 2007, at which time the complainant and the respondents in the above captioned matter appeared 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-200(1)(A), G.S.

 

2.  By letter dated May 18, 2007 [sic] and filed with the Freedom of Information Commission (“Commission”) on June 19, 2007, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”). The complainant alleged that the respondents held an executive session on June 7, 2007, stating that it was for the purposes of  “personnel matters”, which is not recognized “as a legitimate reason for entertaining [sic] an executive session.” The complainant sought relief in the form of: a) civil penalties assessed against Vicki L. Shotland, Richard F. Messenger and Stephen F. Mitchell; b) an order declaring “any action taken as a result of such executive session null and void”; and c) any other order the Commission may deem appropriate.  

 

3.  At the hearing, the respondents made a motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to 1-206(b)(4), G.S., stating that, because the complainant did not attend the June 7, 2007 meeting of the respondent Greater Hartford Transit District, he was not denied any right conferred by the FOIA.

  

4.  Section 1-200, G.S., states in relevant part:

 

(6) “Executive sessions” means 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)

 

5.  Section 1-206(b)(4), G.S., states:

 

Notwithstanding any provision of this subsection to the contrary, in the case of an appeal to the commission of a denial by a public agency, the commission may, upon motion of such agency, confirm the action of the agency and dismiss the appeal without a hearing if it finds, after examining the notice of appeal and construing all allegations most favorably to the appellant, that (A) the agency has not violated the Freedom of Information Act, or (B) the agency has committed a technical violation of the Freedom of Information Act that constitutes a harmless error that does not infringe the appellant’s rights under said act. (emphasis added)

 

6.       Section 1-225(f), G.S., states:

 

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. (emphasis added)

 

7.  It is found that both Richard F. Messenger and Stephen F. Mitchell are directors of the respondent Greater Hartford Transit District, and that both directors attended the June 7, 2007 meeting of the respondent Greater Hartford Transit District.  

 

8.  It is found that director William D. Chiodo made a motion to enter executive session at the June 7, 2007 meeting of the respondent Greater Hartford Transit District, stating the reason, as reflected in the minutes, as being “to review the performance and compensation of the executive director.”  

 

9.  It is found that the respondent Greater Hartford Transit District has only one executive director, Ms. Vicki L. Shotland. Referring to her by her title or position left no ambiguity as to the person being reviewed. 

 

10.  It is concluded that action by the Commission on the respondents’ motion to dismiss, pursuant to a 1-206(b)(4), G.S., is discretionary. In the case of most 1-206(b)(4), G.S., motions, action is taken prior to hearing. Based upon the Commission’s conclusions below, no ruling on the motion is necessary.

    

 11.  It is concluded that the respondents did not violate the requirements of 1-225(f), G.S., when they stated that the purpose of the executive session was to “to review the performance and compensation of the executive director.”  

 

 12.  It is concluded that, because no violation alleged in the complaint was proven, the Commission denies the relief that the complainant requested at paragraph 2a), b), and c), above.  

 

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 December 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:

 

Bradshaw Smith

23 Ludlow Road

Windsor, CT 06095

           

Richard F. Messenger, Member,

Board of Directors, Greater Hartford

Transit District; Stephen F. Mitchell,

Member, Board of Directors,

Greater Hartford Transit District;

and Greater Hartford Transit District

c/o Michael P. Shea, Esq.

Day Pitney LLP

242 Trumbull Street

Hartford, CT 06103

 

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2007-356FD/paj/12/19/2007