FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Dick Goduti,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2008-290

Ray Collins, Chairman, Old Saybrook

Harbor Management Commission, Town

of Old Saybrook; Ross Byrne, Member,

Old Saybrook Harbor Management

Commission, Town of Old Saybrook;

Michael Pace, Member, Old Saybrook

Harbor Management Commission, Town

of Old Saybrook; and Old Saybrook

Harbor Management Commission, Town

of Old Saybrook,

 
  Respondents March 25, 2009
       

           

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on August 8, 2008, at which time the complainant and the respondents 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-200(1), G. S.

 

2.       It is found that the complainant is a member of the respondent commission.   

 

            3.   By letter of complaint dated April 23, 2008, and filed on April 24, 2008, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by conducting a private meeting sometime between January 15, 2008 and March 10, 2008, at which they discussed Ferry Dock Road, a matter over which the respondent commission has supervision, control and jurisdiction.  The complainant alleged that he first learned of such alleged meeting on April 14, 2008.  The complainant requested the imposition of civil penalties in this matter.    

 

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

 

Any person denied the right to inspect or copy records under section 1-210 or wrongfully denied the right to attend any meeting of a public agency or denied any other right conferred by the Freedom of Information Act 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. 

 

5.  It is found that the complainant received notice in fact of the alleged secret or unnoticed meeting on April 14, 2008.  It is further found that the complaint in this matter was filed within thirty days after April 14, 2008.  Accordingly, it is concluded that the Commission has jurisdiction to address the complaint in this matter, pursuant to 1-206(b)(1), G. S.   

 

6.      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: … an administrative or staff meeting of a single-member public agency….    

 

7.      Section 1-225(a), G. S., provides in relevant parts 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. The votes of each member of any such public agency upon any issue before such public agency shall be reduced to writing and made available for public inspection within forty-eight hours and shall also be recorded in the minutes of the session at which taken. Within seven days of the session to which such minutes refer, such minutes shall be available for public inspection.  . . .

 

. . .

 

(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 . . . .

 

            8. It is found that the respondent commission consists of five regular voting members and three ex-officio members, who do not have the power to vote.  It is found that, at all times relevant, the respondents Byrne and Collins were regular members of the respondent commission, and that the respondent Pace, who is the first selectman of Old Saybrook, was an ex-officio member of such commission.  

 

            9.  It is found that, by letter dated January 10, 2007, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) informed the respondent Pace, as first selectman, that the Town of Old Saybrook was the recipient of a Small Town Economic Assistance Program (“STEAP”) grant in the amount of $250,000.00 for the rehabilitation of the historic Ferry Road Dock. 

 

            10.  It is found that DEP imposed many conditions and requirements upon the town of Old Saybrook in relation to the awarding of the STEAP grant.  It is also found that, although the ongoing Ferry Road Dock project was overseen by the respondent commission, it was the town itself which was awarded the grant. 

 

11.  It is found that, on February 1, 2008, the respondent Pace invited the respondents Byrne and Collins to his office, along with the clerk of the respondent commission, and the town attorney.  It is found that all such persons assembled in the first selectman’s office to discuss whether the first selectman or the chairman of the respondent commission should sign an application required by the DEP in furtherance of the STEAP grant.  It is found that, after a discussion of approximately fifteen minutes or less, the respondent Pace decided that he should sign the application, as the chief administrative officer of the town, since it was the town which was the recipient of the grant.  

 

12.  It is found that the gathering described in paragraph 11, above, is the alleged meeting which is the subject of the complaint in this matter.  It is found that the respondent commission did not file notice of the gathering, within the meaning of 1-225(d), G. S., nor did it create minutes of such meeting, within the meaning of 1-225(a), G. S.  

 

13.  It is found that the discussion at the gathering was limited to the ministerial decision described in paragraph 11, above.  It is further found that such decision was not a matter over which the respondent commission had supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power.  

 

14.  Based on the facts and circumstances of this case, it is found that the gathering described in paragraph 11, above, was not a “meeting” of the respondent commission within the meaning of 1-200(2), G. S.   Further, it is found that such gathering constituted an “administrative or staff meeting of a single-member public agency,” within the meaning of such provision.  Specifically, the gathering was an administrative meeting of the first selectman, as the chief administrative officer of the town.   

 

15.  It is concluded that the respondents did not violate the FOI Act, as alleged in the complaint. 

 

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

 

            1.  The complaint is dismissed.

 

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 25, 2009.

 

 

____________________________

S. Wilson

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:

 

Dick Goduti

3 Gregory Place

Old Saybrook, CT 06475

 

Ray Collins, Chairman, Old Saybrook

Harbor Management Commission, Town

of Old Saybrook; Ross Byrne, Member,

Old Saybrook Harbor Management

Commission, Town of Old Saybrook;

Michael Pace, Member, Old Saybrook

Harbor Management Commission, Town

of Old Saybrook; and Old Saybrook

Harbor Management Commission, Town

of Old Saybrook

C/o David M. Royston, Esq.

Dzialo, Pickett & Allen, P.C.

15 Elm Street

P.O. Box 779

Old Saybrook, CT 06475

 

 

 

____________________________

S. Wilson

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2008-290FD/sw/3/26/2009