FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

Zachary Janowski and the

Chronicle Printing Company,

 
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2008-121

Fiscal Policy Board,

Town of Columbia,

 
  Respondent February 11, 2009
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 24, and October 17, 2008 and January 23, 2009, at which times the complainants and the 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 2008-122; Zachary Janowski and the Chronicle Printing Company v. Office of the Town Administrator, Town of Columbia.  

 

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 an undated letter filed on February 27, 2008, the complainants appealed to this Commission alleging that “members of the respondent board remained after the [October 31, 2007 regular] meeting adjourned and continued to discuss official business. 

 

3.      Section 1-206(b)(1), G.S., provides, in relevant part that:

Any person 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.  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.  For purposes of this subsection, such notice of appeal shall be deemed to be filed on the date it is received by said commission or on the date it is postmarked, if received more than thirty days after the date of the denial from which such appeal is taken….[Emphasis added.]

 

4.      It is found that the alleged meeting was unnoticed.

 

5.      It is found that the complainant received notice in fact on or about February 4, 2008, that the alleged October 31, 2007 meeting occurred.

 

6.      It is therefore concluded that the complaint was filed within the appropriate thirty-day period.

 

7.      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 . . . communication limited to notice of meetings of any public agency or the agendas thereof. 

 

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

 

9.      It is found that on or about February 4, 2008, the complainant was provided with a copy of a letter written by a Richard D. Saddlemire in which Dr. Saddlemire states, in part, that:

 

On October 29, I learned that the Town Administrator had been approving overtime pay for an employee for approximately two years when that employee did not qualify for overtime pay according to the Town Handbook  . . . Two days later, after a Fiscal Policy meeting, in my capacity as superintendent, I informed those in attendance of this unwarranted use of town funds.

 

10.  At the hearing on this matter, the complainant contended that the letter, described in paragraph 9, above, is a clear indication that the respondent discussed matters over which it has jurisdiction and control which discussion should have been held in public at an open meeting and recorded in the respondent’s minutes.

 

11.  It is found that the respondent held a special meeting on October 31, 2007 the minutes for which reflect that the following members were present: Daryl Brown, Donald Cianci, Richard Saddlemire, Earnest Sharpe, Robert Skinner, and Kate Starkey.

 

12.   It is found that towards the end of the respondent’s discussion of the noticed agenda items, Dr. Saddlemire, attempted to raise the issue described in paragraph 9 above, for discussion, of which, at the time of the October 31, 2007 special meeting, no other board member was aware. 

 

13.   It is found that the point was made that only the issues on the agenda for that meeting could be discussed and the matter was not discussed at that time.

 

14.   It is found that after the adjournment of the October 31, 2007 special meeting, Dr. Saddlemire was given the opportunity to articulate the issue for the sole purpose of determining if the issue should be put on the agenda of the next meeting.

 

15.   It is found that Dr. Saddlemire articulated the issue with a measure of formality and some detail that he wanted his statements to be recorded in the minutes of the October 31, 2007 special meeting.

 

16.   It is found, however, that the respondent did not expect or require the level of formality and detail provided by Dr. Saddlemire and the respondent did not intend to, nor did it, address the issue at that time.  It is found that the substantive discussion that took place thereafter was limited to determining if the issue should be put on the agenda for the respondent’s next meeting.

 

17.   It is found that a tangential discussion occurred between Donald Cianci, the first selectman, Robert Skinner, the then town administrator, and Dr. Saddlemire regarding the manner in which Dr. Saddlemire chose to address the issue which discussion was a personal and collegial matter between those three gentlemen.

 

18.   Based on the facts and circumstances of this case, it is found that the discussion that took place after the respondent adjourned its October 31, 2007 meeting was “communication limited to notice of meetings of any public agency or the agendas thereof” within the meaning of 1-200(2) and not a “meeting” within the meaning of that provision.

 

19.   It is concluded, therefore, that the respondent did not violate the open meetings provision of 1-225(a), G.S., as alleged by the complainants.    

 

 

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 February 11, 2009.

 

 

____________________________

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:

 

Zachary Janowski and the

Chronicle Printing Company

PO Box 148

1Chronicle Road

Willimantic, CT 06226

and

72 Robindale Drive

Plantsville, CT 06479

 

 

Fiscal Policy Board,

Town of Columbia

c/o Duncan J. Forsyth, Esq.

Halloran & Sage LLP

One Goodwin Square

225 Asylum Street

Hartford, CT 06103

 

 

____________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIC/2008-121FD/paj/2/17/2009