As of September 5, 2022, Freedom of Information Commission meetings and contested case hearings will resume being conducted in person. All parties and witnesses must appear in person for their contested case hearings and Commission meetings. Please access this link or contact the Commission for further information.

Final Decision FIC2013-291
In the Matter of a Complaint by
FINAL DECISION
Bradshaw Smith,
     Complainant
     against
Docket #FIC 2013-291
Doreen Richardson, Member, Board of
Education, Windsor Public Schools; Darleen
Klass, Member, Board of Education, Windsor
Public Schools; Jeffrey Villars, Superintendent
of Schools, Windsor Public Schools; Craig Cook,
Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources,
Windsor Public Schools; and Board of Education,
Windsor Public Schools,
     Respondents
March 26, 2014

     The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 20, 2013, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  The case caption has been amended to reflect that, during the relevant time period, Jeffrey Villars was the Superintendent of Windsor Public Schools, and Craig Cook was the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources of Windsor 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.  By letter dated May 9, 2013 and filed May 13, 2013, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOI Act”) in the following ways:
a. Publishing an agenda for an April 9, 2013 meeting which failed to indicate that the meeting would include an executive session;
b. Entering into an execution session at the April 9, 2013 meeting without first adding the executive session to the agenda by a proper motion; and
c. Failing to state the purpose of the executive session with sufficient specificity.
     3.  In his complaint, the complainant requested that the Commission consider the imposition of a civil penalty, issue an order declaring the executive session improper and instruct the respondents that they strictly comply with the FOI Act in the future.
     4.  Section 1-200(6), G.S., provides, in relevant part, as follows:
“Executive sessions” means a meeting of a public agency at which the public is excluded for one or more of the following purposes:  (A)  Discussion concerning the appointment, employment, performance, evaluation, health or dismissal of a public officer or employee, provided that such individual may require that discussion be held at an open meeting . . . .
     5.  Section 1-225(c), G.S., provides, in relevant part, as follows:
The agenda of the regular meeting of every public agency. . . shall be available to the public and shall be filed, not less than twenty-four hours before the meeting to which they refer, (1) in such agency’s regular office or place of business, and (2) . . . in the office of the clerk of such subdivision for any public agency of a political subdivision of the state or in the office of the clerk of each municipal member of any multitown district or agency. . . . Upon the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of a public agency present and voting, any subsequent business not included in such filed agendas may be considered and acted upon at such meetings.
     6.  Section 1-225(f), G.S., provides as follows:
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.
     7.  It is found that the Windsor Board of Education held a regular meeting on April 9, 2013.
     8.  It is found that the agenda for the April 9, 2013 regular meeting included the following item of business: “8. Consent Agenda: . . . d. Human Resources Report.”
     9.  It is found that the matters to be discussed as part of the Human Resources Report were further explained in a supplemental, one-page document entitled, “Agenda Item.”  It is found that the supplemental Agenda Item clarified that the Human Resources Report would be discussed in six separate segments or action items, as follows:
1) Resignations/Separations; 2) Retirements; 3) Transfers/Reassignments; 4) Personal Leaves; 5) Hires; and 6) Non-Renewals.
     10. It is found that the agenda and the supplemental Agenda Item concerning the Human Resources Report were both available to the public prior to the April 9, 2013 meeting, within the timeframes set forth in §1-225(c), G.S.
     11. It is found that, at the commencement of the April 9, 2013 meeting, a second supplemental document was distributed to the members of the Board of Education.  It is found that this document included a list of the individuals who were going to be discussed under the “Non-Renewal” segment of the Human Resources report. 
     12. It is found that this second supplemental document was not made available to the public or to the respondent board members when the agenda and the supplemental Agenda Item were made available because the individuals listed on the document and who were going to be discussed as candidates for potential non-renewal were still being notified of such fact. 
     13. It is found that the Board of Education voted to move into executive session at the April 9, 2013 meeting to discuss the non-renewal of contracts pertaining to the individuals listed in the second supplemental document, and did so under the action item of “Non-Renewal.”  It is found that the Board’s oral motion did not identify which individuals’ contracts, or which group of individuals, were going to be discussed.  It is found that, after the executive session discussion, the Board of Education reconvened in public session, at which time it voted as follows:  “move that the contract of employment of those employees listed in the Superintendent’s Human Resources Report – Addendum not be renewed for the following year upon its expiration at the end of the 2012-2016 school year. . . .”  It is found that the motion passed.
     14. With regard to the complainant’s contentions described in paragraphs 2.a and 2.b, above, it is found that an “executive session” is a manner in which to discuss agency business; it is not an item of business in and of itself.  It is therefore found that the April 9, 2013 regular meeting agenda did not have to indicate that the meeting would include an executive session.  It is further found that the Board did not have to add the executive session to its agenda before it could conduct such session.  Rather, under §1-225(f), G.S., a public agency must vote by two-thirds to enter executive session, stating the reason for the executive session.
     15. It is therefore concluded that the respondents did not violate the FOI act as alleged in paragraphs 2.a and 2.b, above.
     16. With regard to the complainant’s contentions described in paragraph 2.c, above, 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.  Therefore, descriptions such as “personnel,” “personnel matters,” “legal,” or even “the appointment, employment, performance, evaluation, health or dismissal of a public officer or public employee” are inadequate and do not state the reason for convening in executive session, within the meaning of §1-225(f), G.S.  See Joseph Tarzia v. Ernie Orgera, Chairman, Water Pollution Control Authority, City of Stamford, et al., Docket #FIC 2012-513 (Aug. 14, 2013). 
     17. In addition, 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.”
     18. Based on the evidence in this case, it is found that the agenda for the April 9, 2013 meeting, combined with the supplemental Agenda Item, as well as the motion raised at the meeting to convene the session, were insufficient to apprise the public of the matters the Board intended to consider during the executive session. 
     19. It is therefore concluded that the respondents violated the provisions of §§1-225(c) and 1-225(f), G.S. 
     20. Based on the facts and circumstances of this case, the Commission declines to consider the imposition of 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) and 1-225(f), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 26, 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:
Bradshaw Smith
23 Ludlow Road
Windsor, CT  06095
Doreen Richardson, Member, Board of Education, Windsor
Public Schools; Darleen Klass, Member, Board of Education,
Windsor Public Schools; Jeffrey Villars, Superintendent
of Schools, Windsor Public Schools; Craig Cook, Assistant
Superintendent of Human Resources, Windsor Public
Schools; and Board of Education, Windsor Public Schools
c/o Gary R. Brochu, Esq.
Shipman & Goodwin, LLP
One Constitution Plaza
Hartford, CT  06103

____________________________
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission

FIC/2013-291/FD/cac/3/26/2014