FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

Maria Pereira, Sauda Baraka, and

Bobby Simmons,

 
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2010-408

Patrick Crossin, Chair, Finance Committee,

Board of Education, Bridgeport Public Schools;

Barbara Bellinger, President and Member,

Finance Committee, Board of Education,

Bridgeport Public Schools; Leticia Colon,

Vice President, and Member, Finance Committee,

Board of Education, Bridgeport Public Schools;

and Finance Committee, Bridgeport Public Schools,

 
  Respondents April 27, 2011
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on January 6, 2011, at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared 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 June 29, 2010, the complainants appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by convening a meeting on May 26, 2010, to discuss “financial savings/spending adjustments,” which was not noticed to the public, and thereby denying the public the right to attend such meeting.  The complainants, who also are members of the Board of Education, further alleged that such violations were willful, and “without reasonable grounds,” and requested that the Commission impose a civil penalty against the respondents for such violations.    

 

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

 

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

 

4.  Section 1-200(2), G.S., in relevant part, defines “meeting” as:

[a]ny 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:  Any meeting of a personnel search committee for executive level employment candidates; any chance meeting, or a social meeting neither planned nor intended for the purpose of discussing matters relating to official business; strategy or negotiations with respect to collective bargaining; a caucus of members of a single political party notwithstanding that such members also constitute a quorum of a public agency; an administrative or staff meeting of a single-member public agency; and communication limited to notice of meetings of any public agency or the agendas thereof….(emphasis added).

 

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

 

The agenda of the regular meetings of every public agency, except for the General Assembly, shall be available to the public and shall be filed, not less than twenty-four hours before the meetings to which they refer, (1) in such agency's regular office or place of business….

 

6.  It is found that, on May 26, 2010, at approximately 4 p.m., respondents Crossin, Bellinger, and Colon, gathered with the superintendent of schools, union representatives, the union president and its attorney, in the superintendent’s office (the “gathering”).  It is found that the gathering was neither noticed nor open to the public.  It is found that no votes or action was taken during the gathering.

 

7.  It is found that a regular meeting of the respondent finance committee, properly noticed and open to the public, was held at 5:30 p.m. on May 26, 2010.  It is found that the union representatives, president and attorney did not attend the public meeting.   

 

8.  It is found that, as of the date of the gathering, the expenses of the Board of Education exceeded the money allocated to it in the 2010-2011 budget.  The parties do not dispute, and it is found that, the purpose of the gathering was to discuss the budget deficit and to explore the possibility of reducing the deficit, specifically through concessions by union members.             

 

9.  The respondents contend that the gathering was not a “meeting,” within the meaning of 1-200(2), G.S., because it pertained to strategy and negotiations with respect to collective bargaining.

 

10.  The complainants argue that the purpose of the gathering could not have been to discuss strategy and negotiation with respect to collective bargaining because:  the collective bargaining agreements had already been approved and finalized; the law firm that represents the Board of Education was not present at the gathering; and there was not a quorum of Board members present at the gathering that would have had authority to act upon matters related to collective bargaining.

 

11.  It is found that the gathering was not a “meeting” within the meaning of 1-200(2), G.S., as the discussions that took place pertained to strategy or negotiation with respect to collective bargaining.

 

12.  It is therefore concluded that the respondents did not violate the FOI Act as alleged.  Accordingly, there is no basis for the imposition of a civil penalty, as requested by the complainants.

 

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

 

            1.  The complaint is hereby dismissed.

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of April 27, 2011.

 

 

 

__________________________

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:

 

Maria Pereira

364 Lakeside Drive

Bridgeport, CT  06606

 

Sauda Baraka

85 Pinepoint Drive

Bridgeport, CT  06606

 

Bobby Simmons

2163 Main Street

Bridgeport, CT  06606

 

Patrick Crossin, Chair, Finance Committee,

Board of Education, Bridgeport Public Schools;

Barbara Bellinger, President and Member, Finance

Committee, Board of Education, Bridgeport Public Schools;

Leticia Colon, Vice President, and Member, Finance

Committee, Board of Education, Bridgeport Public Schools;

 and Finance Committee, Bridgeport Public Schools

c/o Edmund F. Schmidt, Esq.

Assistant City Attorney

Office of the City Attorney

999 Broad Street, 2nd Floor

Bridgeport, CT  06604

 

 

 

____________________________

Cynthia A. Cannata

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

 

 

FIC/2010-408/FD/cac/5/2/2011