FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

Dennis M. Foran and

Christine D. Dunnack,

 
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2008-297

Chairman, Board of Assessment

Appeals, Town of Andover; and

Board of Assessment Appeals,

Town of Andover,

 
  Respondents April 22, 2009
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 9, 2008, at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  For purposes of hearing, this matter was

consolidated with Docket #FIC 2008-478; Dennis Foran and Joan Foran v. Board of Selectmen, Town of Andover

 

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.      By letter dated April 28, 2008 and filed April 29, 2008, the complainants appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to file a notice and agenda of a March 31, 2008 gathering of the respondent board at least twenty-four hours prior to such gathering, and by failing to make available minutes of such gathering within seven days. 

 

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:

           

…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….

 

5.      Section 1-225(d), G. S., provides in relevant part:

 

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…The notice shall specify the time and place of the special meeting and the business to be transacted….

 

6.      It is found that the respondent is a three member board and that, in March of 2008 two such members were relatively new to service on the board.

 

7.      It is found that, on Saturday, March 29, 2008, the respondent board held a series of hearings of tax appeals in Andover Town Hall, and that the board planned to decide such appeals at its meeting scheduled for the following Friday, April 4, 2008.

 

8.      It is found that the Assessor for the town worked only part-time, on Mondays and Thursdays.  It is found that the members of the respondent board had questions regarding the methods of the Assessor and that, on Monday, March 31, 2008, all three such members stopped by town hall and asked the Assessor to meet with them to discuss his methods and procedures. 

 

9.      It is found that the Assessor then met with the members of the board in a meeting room at the town hall.  It is further found that such gathering lasted approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, and that during such gathering the board members asked the Assessor about his methods and procedures in general.  It is found that no specific tax appeal was discussed.  It is further found that no votes were taken during such gathering, and that no consensus or other decisions were reached.

 

10.   It is found that, at the time of the gathering described in paragraph 9, above, the members of the respondent board relied on guidance found in the Connecticut Boards of Assessment Appeal Handbook, and that such members did not consider the gathering a meeting of the respondent board.

 

11.   Based on the facts and circumstances of this case, it is concluded that the March 31, 2008 gathering was a special meeting of the respondent board.

 

12.  It is found that, after receiving notice of the complaint in this matter, the respondent chairman contacted counsel for the town of Andover.  At the hearing in this matter, the respondent chairman testified that, after consulting with the town attorney, her “eyes were opened” about the ramifications of the gathering described in paragraph 9, above, with respect to the FOI Act. 

 

13.   At the hearing in this matter, the respondent chairman stipulated that, with respect to the March 31, 2008 meeting at issue, the respondents did not file the notice required by 1-225(d), G. S., and did not prepare the minutes required by 1-225(a), G. S.  The respondent chairman apologized for such failures.

 

14.   It is concluded that the respondents violated 1-225(a) and 1-225(d), G. S., in this matter.

 

15.  At the hearing in this matter, the respondent chairman testified that the respondents have taken steps to ensure future compliance with the requirements of the FOI Act, including receiving FOI training from town counsel.  The Commission notes that the respondent chairman was sincere and credible in her testimony before the Commission.

 

16.  At the hearing in this matter, the complainant requested as a remedy that the respondents attend an FOI workshop.   

 

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

 

1.      The respondents are encouraged to contact Commission staff to schedule an FOI workshop. 

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of April 22, 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:

 

Dennis M. Foran and

Christine D. Dunnack

c/o Melissa Testa, Esq.

21 East Middle Turnpike

Manchester, CT 06042

           

Chairman, Board of Assessment

Appeals, Town of Andover; and

Board of Assessment Appeals,

Town of Andover

c/o Dennis O’Brien, Esq.

O’Brien and Johnson

120 Bolivia Street

Willimantic, CT 06226

 

 

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2008-297FD/paj/4/24/2009