FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
John Patton,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2009-321

Michael Eldredge, First Selectman,

Town of Willington; Mark Palmer,

Selectman, Town of Willington; and

Board of Selectmen, Town of Willington,

 
  Respondents May 12, 2010
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 5, 2010, 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.      By letter dated and filed on June 2, 2009, the complainant appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by voting in executive session, at the respondent board’s May 27, 2009 meeting, to appeal this Commission’s final decision in Docket #FIC 2009-321; John Patton v. Michael Eldredge, First Selectman, Town of Willington; Mark Palmer, Selectman, Town of Willington; and Board of Selectmen, Town of Willington (hereinafter “the final decision”).  The complainant requested the imposition of civil penalties against Mr. Eldredge and Mr. Palmer.

 

3.      By letter dated July 6, 2009, the complainant amended his appeal alleging that, based on new information, the decision to appeal the final decision was made “at or after [the respondent board’s] May 27 meeting” and that the decision was made “outside of a public meeting.”  The complainant also amended his appeal to request that this Commission declare null and void all action at the “undisclosed meeting.”

 

4.      Section 1-225(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:

 

[T]he meetings of all public agencies . . . shall be open to the public.

5.      It is found that the respondent board convened in executive session at its regular meeting of May 27, 2009, the agenda for which provided in relevant part as follows: 

 

“Executive Session: FOI Ruling Appeal.”

 

6.      It is found that all three selectmen, Mr. Eldredge, Mr. Palmer, and the third selectman, Mr. David Charrette, attended the meeting and the executive session described in paragraph 5, above.

 

7.      At the hearing on this matter, Mr. Charrette, a witness for the complainant, testified, and it is found, that the discussion during the executive session was limited to the pros and cons of appealing the final decision and that no decision was made, or vote taken, at that time.

 

8.      It is found, however, that an appeal of the final decision was filed with the Superior Court.

 

9.      At the hearing on this matter, the complainant contended that Mr. Eldredge and Mr. Palmer met and agreed to appeal the final decision at an undisclosed meeting, which should have been noticed and held in open session.  The complainant also contended that because the decision to appeal the final decision to the Superior Court required a formal vote of the respondent board, he believed that counsel for the respondent board would not have filed the appeal without such a vote.

 

10.  It is found, by reasonable inference from the facts on the record, that the decision was made at an unnoticed meeting attended by Mr. Eldredge and Mr. Palmer.

 

11.   It is concluded, therefore, that the respondents violated the FOI Act as alleged by the complainant.

 

12.   It is also found that Mr. Eldredge and Mr. Palmer are no longer selectmen and did not appear at the hearing on this matter, and that the present first selectman, who appeared on behalf of the respondent board, has no knowledge of the events at issue in this matter.

 

13.   Furthermore, it is found that the appeal, described in paragraph 8, above, was withdrawn by the present board of selectmen prior to the hearing in this matter.

 

14.   The Commission in its discretion declines to consider the imposition of civil penalties.

 

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

 

1.      Henceforth, the respondents shall comply with the provisions of 1-225, G.S.

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 12, 2010.

 

 

 

____________________________

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:

 

John Patton

PO Box 316

Willington, CT 06279

 

Michael Eldredge, First Selectman,

Town of Willington; Mark Palmer,

Selectman, Town of Willington; and

Board of Selectmen, Town of Willington

c/o Christina B. Mailhos

First Selectman

46 Hall Hill Road

Willington, CT 06279

 

 

 

____________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2009-321FD/paj/5/13/2010