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Final Decision FIC2015-228
In the Matter of a Complaint by
FINAL DECISION
Rich Saluga,
     Complainant
     against
Docket #FIC 2015-228
Chairman, Board of Ethics,
Town of Brookfield;
Board of Ethics,
Town of Brookfield; and
Town of Brookfield,
     Respondents
December 16, 2015

     The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 15, 2015, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. 
     1.  The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of §1-200(1), G.S.
     2.  By letter dated March 23, 2015 and filed March 26, 2015, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOI Act”) in the following way:  by failing to announce that an executive session, which occurred as part of a February 26, 2015 regular meeting, had concluded and that the public portion of the meeting had reconvened. 
     3.  Section 1-225(a), G.S., provides, in relevant part, that “[t]he meetings of all public agencies, except executive sessions, as defined in subdivision (6) of section 1-200, shall be open to the public. . . .”
     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: . . . (E) discussion of any matter which would result in the disclosure of public records or the information contained therein described in subsection (b) of section 1-210.
     5.  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.
     6.  The respondent Chairperson appeared at the contested case hearing and provided testimony. 
     7.  It is found that the respondent board properly convened a regular meeting on February 26, 2015.  It is found that, after the meeting had been called to order and after having conducted some of the public portion of the meeting, the board’s Chairperson moved to enter into executive session to accept two ethics complaints and to conduct a probable cause discussion with regard to the complaints.1   It is found that the Chairperson’s motion was seconded and, thereafter, unanimously supported by the other board members.  It is found that, at such time, the public (which consisted only of the complainant) was asked to leave the room.  It is found that the complainant left the room and the door to the meeting room was closed.

1
The Commission notes that §7-148h(a), G.S., permits the respondents to investigate allegations of unethical conduct against any official, officer or employee of their town, with the requirement that the provisions of §1-82a (a) - (e), G.S., apply to any such investigation. The Commission further notes that the §1-82a(a), G.S., provides, in relevant part, that, unless and until a finding of probable cause is made, "a complaint alleging a violation of this part. . . shall be confidential except upon request of the respondent." Accordingly, while not at issue in this case, it is clear that the respondents properly convened in executive session pursuant to §1-200(6)(E) to accept the two ethics complaints and to discuss the allegations contained therein.
     8.  It is found that, once the executive session portion of the respondent board’s meeting had concluded, the Chairperson opened the meeting room door and secured the door open with a door wedge.  It is found that, as she was securing the door, the Chairperson saw that the complainant was engaged in a conversation with another citizen in the hallway in front of the meeting room.  At this time, it is found that the respondents reconvened the meeting in public and continued with their business.
     9.  The complainant contends that, once the respondents closed the door for the executive session, they never opened it again until the meeting was over and therefore the respondents improperly conducted the business following the executive session behind closed doors.  The complainant further contends that this Commission should be suspect of the Chairperson’s testimony. 
     10. However, no evidence was produced at the contested case hearing that would in any way shed a negative light on the Chairperson’s testimony. 
     11. It is found that the respondents properly conducted the February 26, 2015 executive session. 
     12. Accordingly, it is concluded that the respondents did not violate the FOI Act, as alleged in the complaint. 
     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 December 16, 2015.

_______________________
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:
Rich Saluga
Newbury Village
32 Great Heron Lane
Brookfield, CT 06804
Chairman, Board of Ethics, Town of Brookfield;
Board of Ethics, Town of Brookfield; and
Town of Brookfield
c/o Thomas W. Beecher, Esq.
Collins Hannafin, P.C.
148 Deer Hill Avenue
Danbury, CT  06810
____________________________
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC/2015-228/FD/cac/12/16/2015