FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

Sauda Baraka, Maria Pereira, and

Bobby Simmons,

 
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2010-582

Barbara Bellinger, President, Board of

Education, Bridgeport Public Schools; 

Leticia Colon, Vice President, Board of

Education, Bridgeport Public Schools;

Delores Fuller, Secretary, Board of

Education, Bridgeport Public Schools;

Thomas Cunningham, as Member,

Board of Education, Bridgeport Public

Schools; Patrick Crossin, as Member,

Board of Education, Bridgeport Public

Schools; Nereyda Robles, as Member,

Board of Education, Bridgeport Public

Schools; and Board of Education,

Bridgeport Public Schools, 

 
  Respondents August 10, 2011
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 8, 2011, 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 2010-644; Sauda Baraka, Maria Pereira and Bobby Simmons v. Barbara Bellinger, President, Board of Education, Bridgeport Public Schools; Leticia Colon, Vice President, Board of Education, Bridgeport Public Schools; Delores Fuller, Secretary, Board of Education, Bridgeport Public Schools; Thomas Cunningham, Patrick Crossin and Nereyda Robles, as members, Board of Education, Bridgeport Public Schools; and Board of Education, Bridgeport Public Schools

 

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.   It is found that the complainants are also members of the respondent board of education.

 

            3.   It is found that, on August 19, 2010, the respondent board conducted a special meeting (hereinafter “the meeting”).   

 

            4.  By letter dated and filed September 17, 2010, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOI Act”) in the following ways: 

 

            a.  by not properly voting to enter executive session during the meeting;

            b.  by not stating the purpose of the executive session during the meeting;

            c.  by allowing three attorneys, John Bohannon, Donald Houston, and Mark Anastasi, to improperly attend the executive session;

            d. by failing to make available minutes of the meeting within seven days of the meeting;

            e.  by failing to include in the minutes of the executive session the votes to enter

                 executive session, the reason to enter executive session, the reason for the

                 presence of the several attorneys, and the length of the executive session;

            f.  by failing to clearly identify the subject matter of a roll call vote;

            g. by failing to identify which members made which motions in the meeting minutes.

           

            The complainants requested that the action taken at the meeting be declared null and void.  The complainants also requested that civil penalties be imposed against the named respondents. 

 

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

 

   (a) 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.  Not later than seven days after the date 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, except that no public agency of a political subdivision of the state shall be required to post such minutes on an Internet web site. Each public agency shall make, keep and maintain a record of the proceedings of its meetings.

 

   …

 

   (d)  Notice of each special meeting of every public agency…shall be posted not less than twenty-four hours before the meeting….The notice shall specify the time and place of the special meeting and the business to be transacted….

   …

 

    (f)  A public agency may hold an executive session as defined in subdivision (6) of section 1-200, upon an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of such body present and voting, taken at a public meeting and stating the reasons for such executive session, as defined in section 1-200.

 

   (g)  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.

 

            6.  Section 1-231(a), G.S., provides, in relevant part:

 

             (a)  At an executive session of a public agency, attendance shall be limited to members of said body and persons invited by said body to present testimony or opinion pertinent to matters before said body provided that such persons' attendance shall be limited to the period for which their presence is necessary to present such testimony or opinion and, attendance except job applicants who attend for the purpose of being interviewed by such agency.

 

            7. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 4.a and 4.b, above, the respondents did not provide evidence that the purpose for entering executive session was stated during the meeting or that a two-thirds vote was taken to enter executive session. It is concluded that the respondents violated 1-225(f), G.S., as alleged in paragraph 4.a and 4.b, above. 

 

            8. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 4.c, above, the respondents did not provide evidence as to why the three attorneys identified therein were permitted to attend the executive session.  It is found that two of the attorneys said nothing during the executive session and stayed throughout the entire executive session; and that the third attorney entered the executive session approximately halfway through, and stayed beyond the time he participated.

It is concluded that the respondents violated 1-231(a), G.S., as alleged in paragraph 4.c, above. 

 

            9.  With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 4.d, above, the complaint alleges that the minutes of the meeting were not available until August 30, 2010, and thus were late.  However, since the meeting was a special meeting, it is found that the minutes were timely filed on the seventh day, August 30, 2010, pursuant to 1-225(g), G.S.  It is concluded that the respondents did not violate 1-225(a), G.S., as alleged in paragraph 4.d, above. 

 

            10.  With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 4.e, above, it is found that the minutes of the meeting indicate the purpose and length of time of the executive session, and the members and other individuals in attendance.  However, it is found that the minutes do not indicate the reason for the attendance of the non-members.  It is concluded that the respondents violated 1-225(a), G.S., as alleged in paragraph 4.e, above. 

 

            11.  With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 4.f, above, the complainant did not pursue this allegation at the hearing.  The Commission will take not further address this allegation.

 

            12.  With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 4.g, above, such allegation does not allege a violation of the FOI Act.

 

            13.  The Commission declines to consider the imposition of a civil penalty or the declaration of a null and void order in this matter.

 

           

            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 requirements of 1-225 and 231, G.S.

 

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of August 10, 2011.

 

 

 

____________________________

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:

 

Sauda Baraka

85 Pinepoint Drive

Bridgeport, CT 06606

 

Maria Pereira

570 Ezra Street

Bridgeport, CT 06604

 

Bobby Simmons

2163 Main Street

Bridgeport, CT 06606

 

Barbara Bellinger, President, Board of

Education, Bridgeport Public Schools; 

Leticia Colon, Vice President, Board of

Education, Bridgeport Public Schools;

Delores Fuller, Secretary, Board of

Education, Bridgeport Public Schools;

Thomas Cunningham, as Member,

Board of Education, Bridgeport Public

Schools; Patrick Crossin, as Member,

Board of Education, Bridgeport Public

Schools; Nereyda Robles, as Member,

Board of Education, Bridgeport Public

Schools; and Board of Education,

Bridgeport Public Schools

C/o Edmund F. Schmidt, Esq.

Assistant City Attorney

Office of the City Attorney

999 Broad Street

Bridgeport, CT 06604

 

 

____________________________

S. Wilson

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2010-582FD/sw/8/17/2011