FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|against||Docket #FIC 2009-656|
Nancy Cox, Chair, Board of Ethics, Town of
Mansfield; Nora Stevens, Vice Chair, Board of
Ethics, Town of Mansfield; Maria Capriola,
Assistant to the Town Manager, Town of
Mansfield; and Board of Ethics, Town of
|Respondents||June 9, 2010|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 2, 2010, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. The matter was consolidated for hearing with docket #FIC 2009-627; Elizabeth T. Wassmundt v. Board of Ethics, Town of Mansfield; and docket #FIC 2009-690; Elizabeth T. Wassmundt v. Board of Ethics, Town of Mansfield.
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 e-mail received and filed on October 30, 2009, the complainant appealed to the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the FOI Act by holding an unnoticed meeting immediately following their special meeting of October 29, 2009. The complainant also alleged that the respondent Board of Ethics improperly added an agenda item to its special meeting of October 15, 2009. The complainant requested the imposition of a civil penalty.
3. Section 1-225(a), G.S., provides in relevant part: “The meetings of all public agencies … shall be public.”
4. Section 1-200(2), G.S., provides:
“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: … a social meeting neither planned nor intended for the purpose of discussing matters relating to official business; … and communication limited to notice of meetings of any public agency or the agendas thereof.
5. It is found that at the special meeting of October 29, 2009 the complainant was removed as chairman of the respondent board and the respondent Cox was elected as chairwoman.
6. It is found that at the conclusion of the meeting, the complainant left the room briefly. It is found that on his return, he saw and heard the remaining board members talking with each other. The complainant alleged that the board members were discussing Board of Ethics matters, in violation of the FOI Act.
7. It is found, however, that the newly elected chairwoman was discussing certain projects with the respondent assistant to the town manager, who also served as recording secretary for the respondent board. It is found, specifically, that the chairwoman was discussing the need to comply with the FOI Act’s notice requirements in the future – such as website posting of minutes and agendas, the need to establish a schedule of regular meetings, and the need to begin taping meetings.
8. It is also found that the other members of the board were making “small talk” and expressing relief that the meeting was over.
9. It is found that the respondents were not conducting a meeting within the meaning of §1-200(2), G.S.
10. With respect to the complainant’s allegation that the respondent Board of Ethics impermissibly added an item to the agenda of its special meeting of October 15, 2009, §1-225(d), G.S., provides in relevant part:
Notice of each special meeting of every public agency … shall specify the time and place of the special meeting and the business to be transacted. No other business shall be considered at such meetings by such public agency.
11. It is found that the respondent board held a special meeting on October 15, 2009. It is found that the complainant was chairman of the respondent board and drew up the agendas for all the board’s meetings. It is further found that the complainant refused to create and follow a schedule of regular meetings.
12. It is found that the complainant refused to include on the agenda “discussion of the status of the secretary.” It is found that the respondent Stevens believed that the board needed to discuss this matter. It is found that because the complainant refused to include the item on the agenda and because the board held no regular meetings, the respondent Stevens moved to amend the agenda of the special meeting of October 15, 2009.
13. It is found that the matter was seconded and the motion to amend passed unanimously, including the vote of the complainant.
14. It is found that the respondents conducted business other than that which was noticed on the special meeting’s agenda.
15. It is concluded, therefore, that the respondents -- and the complainant, as a member of the respondent board – violated §1-225(d), G.S.
16. Notwithstanding the conclusion in paragraph 15, above, the Commission declines to consider the complainant’s request for 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 strictly comply with the provisions of §1-225, G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 9, 2010.
Cynthia A. Cannata
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:
135 Wildwood Road
Storrs, CT 06268-2314
Nancy Cox, Chair, Board of Ethics, Town of Mansfield;
Nora Stevens, Vice Chair, Board of Ethics, Town of Mansfield;
Maria Capriola, Assistant to the Town Manager, Town of Mansfield;
and Board of Ethics, Town of Mansfield,
c/o Dennis O’Brien, Esq.
O’Brien & Johnson
120 Bolivia Street
Willimantic, CT 06226
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission