FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
William J. Choma, Jr.,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2008-715
Princess Pocotopaug Corporation,  
  Respondent October 28, 2009
       

           

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 30, 2009, at which time the complainant and the 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.  By letter of complaint filed November 10, 2008, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act in the following ways:

 

a.   by entering into executive session at its October 16, 2008 meeting for an impermissible purpose;

b.   by failing to post its minutes on its web site;

c.   by failing to state the location for its March 16, 2009 meeting in its October 16, 2008 minutes.

 

3.  It is found that the respondent conducted a regular meeting on October 16, 2008.

 

4.  It is found that the meeting consisted of a public forum at the beginning of the meeting, at which the complainant spoke.

 

5.  It is found that the remainder of the meeting consisted of a variety of topics, during the discussion of which the complainant offered various comments.

 

6.  The complainant contends that he was interrupted during the meeting while he “had the floor;” the respondent contends that the complainant was disruptive during the portion of the meeting during which it was attempting to conduct business.

 

7.  It is found that the respondent asked the complainant to leave, but that the complainant did not leave.

 

8.  It is found that the respondent completed consideration of the items on its agenda, after which it convened in executive session “to get the complainant to leave.”

 

9.  It is found that the purpose of the executive session was to discuss the conduct of the complainant during the meeting. 

 

10.  It is found that members of the respondent, during the seven-minute executive session, voiced their displeasure at the complainant’s behavior, and their desire that the President of the respondent take control of the meeting.

 

11.  It is found that no other business was discussed during the executive session.

 

12.  It is found that the minutes of the October 16 meeting indicate that the next meeting was to be held on March 26, 2008 at 7:00 at a “pending [location].”

 

13.  It is found that the respondent emailed the minutes of its October 16, 2008 meeting to the East Hampton town clerk on October 27, 2008.

 

14.  It is found that the respondent did not post the minutes of the October 16 minutes on a web site. 

 

15.  It is found that a Princess Pocotopaug Corporation web site, princesspocotopaug.net, is maintained by a former President of the respondent, and contains links to downloadable documents that are copies of the minutes of the respondent’s meetings.

 

16.  Section 1-225(a), G.S. provides:

  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 and posted on such public agency’s Internet web site, if available.  Each such agency shall make, keep and maintain a record of the proceedings of its meetings.

 

17.  Section 1-200(6), G.S., provides:

 

“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 …. 

 

18.  Section 1-225(g), G.S., provides:

 

 In determining the time within which or by when a notice, agenda, record of votes or minutes of a special meeting or an emergency special meeting are required to be filed under this section, Saturdays, Sundays, legal holidays and any day on which the office of the agency, the Secretary of the State or the clerk of the applicable political subdivision or the clerk of each municipal member of any multitown district or agency, as the case may be, is closed, shall be excluded. 

 

19.  It is concluded that the respondent did not convene an executive session for a permissible purpose when it met to discuss the complainant’s conduct at its meeting.

 

20.  It is therefore concluded that the respondent violated 1-225(a) and 1-200(6), G.S., at its October 16, 2008 meeting.

 

21.  With respect to the posting of minutes on its web site, the respondent contends that princesspocotopaug.net is not its website, but is the personal website of its former president.

 

22.  However, the Commission takes administrative notice of the fact that the site princesspocotopaug.net is nowhere identified as an individual’s “personal” website, and appears in all respects to be the website of the respondent, and contains the by-laws, rules and regulations, a list of the officers, and other such information as one would expect to be found on an agency’s web site.

 

23.  It is also found that the site princesspocotopaug.net was originally maintained by the former president while she was still president, and that she has continued to maintain the site.

 

24.  It is further found that the former president is paid by the respondent to maintain the website.

 

25.  It is also found that, as of the date of the hearing on this matter, the minutes of the respondent’s more recent March 14, 2009 meeting had been posted on the website, but not the considerably older minutes of October 16, 2008.

 

26.  It is also found that the respondent has control over what is posted on the web site.

 

27.  The Commission takes administrative notice of the fact that the minutes of the October 16, 2008 meeting are, as of the date of the decision in this matter, now posted on the princesspocotopaug.net web site.

 

28.  It is therefore found that the princesspocotopaug.net site is the respondent’s web site within the meaning of 1-225(a), G.S.

 

29.  It is therefore concluded that the respondent violated 1-225(a), G.S., by failing to post its minutes on its website within seven days of the meeting.

 

30.  With respect to the failure of the minutes of the October 16, 2008 meeting to name the location of the respondent’s next meeting, it is concluded that the complainant has failed to allege a violation of the FOI Act.

 

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

 

            1.  Henceforth, the respondent shall strictly comply with the executive session requirements of 1-225(a) and 1-200(6), G.S., and the posting of minutes requirements of 1-225(a), G.S.

 

            2. The respondent Princess Pocotopaug Corporation shall contact the Commission and schedule a workshop for its members concerning the FOIA.

 

 

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of October 28, 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:

 

William J. Choma, Jr.

19 Mohawk Trail

East Hampton, CT 06424

 

Princess Pocotopaug Corporation

C/o Kenneth Barber, Esq.

36 East High Street

East Hampton, CT 06424

 

 

 

____________________________

S. Wilson

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2008-715FD/sw/10/30/2009