FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
George C. Schober,    
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2011-110

David Palmer, Chairman, Board of

Education, Somers Public Schools; Joan

Formeister, Vice Chairman, Board of

Education, Somers Public Schools;

Richard Lees, Jr., member, Board of

Education, Somers Public Schools;

Bruce Devlin, member, Board of

Education, Somers Public Schools;

Mary Beth Marquardt, member, Board of

Education, Somers Public Schools; John Taylor,

member, Board of Education, Somers Public

Schools; Timothy Potrikus, member, Board

of Education, Somers Public Schools; Anne

Kirkpatrick, member, Board of Education,

Somers Public Schools; Sarah Bollinger, member,

Board of Education, Somers Public Schools; and

Board of Education, Somers Public Schools,

 
  Respondents September 14, 2011
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 12, 2011, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  For purposes of hearing, the matter was consolidated with Docket #FIC 2010-741; Richard Stone and Debra Stone v. David Palmer, Chairman, Somers Public Schools, et al., and Docket #FIC 2011-153; George C. Schober v. Maynard M. Suffrendini, Jr., Superintendent, Somers Public Schools, et al.

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 March 4, 2011 and filed on March 7, 2011, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOI Act”) by publishing an agenda that insufficiently described a matter the Board of Education planned to discuss in executive session at its February 14, 2011 regular meeting. 

3.      In his complaint, the complainant seeks the imposition of civil penalties against Board of Education (“BOE”) Chairman David Palmer, BOE Vice Chairperson Joan Formeister, and BOE member Bruce Devlin.

4.      It is found that the respondents held a regular meeting on February 14, 2011 during which they planned to meet in executive session.

5.      It is found that the agenda for the February 14, 2011 regular meeting contained an item of business that stated the following:  “Executive Session- Legal Matters (Executive Session anticipated).”

6.      The complainant contends that, because he could not discern from the agenda whether or not the legal matters to be considered by the BOE involved one of the legal matters that he is interested in, he was forced to attend the February 14, 2011 meeting. 

7.      Section 1-200(6)(B), G.S., permits a public agency to discuss in executive session “strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims or pending litigation to which the public agency or a member thereof, . . .  is a party until such litigation or claim has been finally or otherwise settled.” 

8.      Section 1-200(8), G.S., defines “pending claim” as “a written notice to an agency which sets forth a demand for legal relief or which asserts a legal right stating the intention to institute an action in an appropriate forum if such relief or right is not granted.”

9.      Section 1-200(9), G.S., defines “pending litigation” as follows:

 

 (A) a written notice to an agency which sets forth a demand for legal relief or which asserts a legal right stating the intention to institute an action before a court if such relief or right is not granted by the agency;  (B)  the service of a complaint against an agency returnable to a court which seeks to enforce or implement legal relief or a legal right;  or (C)  the agency's consideration of action to enforce or implement legal relief or a legal right.

 

10.  In Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of Plainfield, et al. v. FOIC, et al., Superior Court, Docket No. 99-0497917-S, Judicial District of New Britain, Memorandum of Decision dated May 3, 2000 (Satter, J.), reversed on other grounds, 66 Conn. App. 279 (2001), the court observed that one purpose of a meeting agenda “is that the public and interested parties be apprised of matters to be taken up at the meeting in order to properly prepare and be present to express their views,” and that “[a] notice is proper only if it fairly and sufficiently apprises the public of the action proposed, making possible intelligent preparation for participation in the hearing.”

11.  It is found that the BOE’s agenda was insufficient to apprise the public which specific legal matter or matters the Board intended to discuss in the executive session scheduled for November 22, 2010.

 

12.  It is concluded that the respondents violated the FOI Act by failing to describe sufficiently on their agenda the business they planned to discuss during the executive session portion of the February 14, 2011 regular meeting. 

13.  At the contested case hearing, the respondents stated that they understood that the description provided in the February 14, 2011 agenda with regard to the purpose for the executive session was insufficient.  They further stated that they would see to it that a more detailed description is provided in the future. 

14.  The Commission, in its discretion, declines to impose 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 requirements of 1-225(c), G.S., by fairly and sufficiently detailing on their meeting agendas the business they plan to address at their meetings.

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of September 14, 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:

 

George C. Schober, Esq.

352 Billings Road

P.O. Box 597

Somers, CT  06071

 

David Palmer, Chairman, Board of Education, Somers Public Schools;

Joan Formeister, Vice Chairman, Board of Education, Somers Public Schools;

Richard Lees, Jr., member, Board of Education, Somers Public Schools;

Bruce Devlin, member, Board of Education, Somers Public Schools;

Mary Beth Marquardt, member, Board of Education, Somers Public Schools;

John Taylor, member, Board of Education, Somers Public Schools;

Timothy Potrikus, member, Board of Education, Somers Public Schools;

Anne Kirkpatrick, member, Board of Education, Somers Public Schools;

Sarah Bollinger, member, Board of Education, Somers Public Schools;

and Board of Education, Somers Public Schools

c/o William R. Connon, Esq.

Sullivan, Schoen, Campane & Connon, LLC

646 Prospect Avenue

Hartford, CT  06105

 

 

 

____________________________

Cynthia A. Cannata

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

 

 

FIC/2011-110/FD/cac/9/14/2011