Final Decision FIC2013-737
In the Matter of a Complaint by
||Docket #FIC 2013-737|
Chairman, Board of Finance, Town of
Somers; Board of Finance, Town of
Somers; and Town of Somers,
August 27, 2014
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 17, 2014, 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 filed November 27, 2013, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the FOI Act by failing to give sufficient detail in their notice of special meeting on November 3, 2013 so as to sufficiently describe the purpose of an executive session.
3. Section 1-225(d), G. S., provides in relevant part that:
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.
4. It is found that the respondents’ notice of special meeting on November 3, 2013, stated, in relevant part: “Review of Pending Claims and Litigation (BOE related).”
5. It is found that the executive session concerned whether it made sense financially to for the Board of Education to bring a vexatious litigation action against the complainant, an attorney who has filed several pending legal actions on his clients’ behalf against the town Board of Education. It is found that the complainant was surprised at the hearing in this matter to learn that the respondents were considering filing suit against him.
6. It is found that, based on the language in the notice of special meeting, the complainant reasonably believed the discussion in the executive session to concern the pending legal matters brought by his clients, not the respondents’ consideration of legal action against him.
7. 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.”
8. In Durham Middlefield Interlocal Agreement Advisory Board v. FOIC et al., Superior Court, Docket No. CV 96 0080435, Judicial District of Middletown, Memorandum of Decision dated August 12, 1997 (McWeeny, J.), the court concluded that it was reasonable for the Commission to require something more detailed than “Executive Session Re: Possible Litigation.”
9. This Commission has repeatedly stated that in order for the public to be fairly apprised of the business to be transacted during an executive session, the public agency must give some indication of the specific topic to be addressed, prior to convening such session. See, for example, Docket #FIC2012-502; Kate King and the Stamford Advocate v. Water Pollution Control Authority, City of Stamford; and City of Stamford (May 8, 2013) (“legal strategy” failed to identify with sufficient particularity reason for respondents’ executive session); Docket #FIC2010-741; Richard Stone and Debra Stone v. David Palmer, Chairman, Board of Education, Somers Public Schools, et al (September 14, 2011) (“legal matters” insufficient to inform public what respondents planned to discuss in executive session); Docket #FIC 2009-333; Dostaler v. Water Development Task Force, Town of East Hampton (March 24, 2010) (“pending litigation” failed to adequately apprise public of business to be transacted).
10. It is found that the notice of the respondents’ special meeting of November 4, 2013, failed to sufficiently apprise the public of matters to be taken up at the meeting. It is found that the respondents could have easily provided greater detail about the business to be transacted during their executive session without disclosing the substance of their discussion.
11. It is concluded, therefore, that the respondents violated §1-225(d), G.S., as alleged.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The respondents shall forthwith amend the minutes of their special meeting of November 3, 2013, to include information as if the executive session were held in public; that is, what was discussed and any action taken.
2. Henceforth, the respondents shall strictly comply with §1-225, G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of August 27, 2014.
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:
352 Billings Road
P.O. Box 597
Somers, CT 06071
Chairman, Board of Finance, Town of Somers; Board of Finance,
Town of Somers; and Town of Somers
c/o Carl T. Landolina, Esq.
Fahey & Landolina, Attorneys LLC
487 Spring Street
Windsor Locks, CT 06096
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission