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 FIC2012-113
In the Matter of a Complaint by
FINAL DECISION
Sheila McCreven,
     Complainant
     against
Docket #FIC 2012-113
Conservation Commission, Town of
Woodbridge; and Town of Woodbridge,
     Respondents
February 21, 2013

     The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 30, 2012, 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.  It is found that by letter dated and filed on February 24, 2012, the complainant appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondents violated the FOI Act by failing to file minutes for its February 10, 2012 special meeting.  At the hearing on this matter, the complainant requested the imposition of civil penalties.
     3.  It is found that the respondent Conservation Commission (hereinafter “respondent commission”) posted a notice and agenda for a February 10, 2012 special meeting with the sole item of business as “Proposed preservation of portion of the Hubbell Farm” [sic].
     4.  It is found that the respondent commission filed minutes of the February 10, 2012 special meeting on July 19, 2012, well after the complaint in this matter was filed.
     5.  It is found that the minutes described in paragraph 4, above, state that an informal discussion spontaneously began and that the meeting adjourned after 15 minutes because there was no quorum.
     6.  It is found, however, that the meeting was called to order by the chairperson of the respondent commission and pursuant to the notice and agenda, a discussion of the preservation of the Hubbell Farm began thereafter.  It is found that, after approximately fifteen minutes, the chairperson announced that the respondent commission did not have a quorum and that the meeting could not continue.  However, it is found that, with the consent of the chairperson, one member of the respondent commission stayed and the discussion continued for approximately forty more minutes.
     7.  At the hearing on this matter, the respondent commission claimed that the discussion at the February 10, 2012 special meeting was simply an informal informational session and was not a meeting of the respondent commission because a quorum of its members were not present. The complainant asserted that the discussion was a meeting, with the meaning of §1-200(2), G.S.
     8.  Section 1-200(2), G.S., provides in relevant part that:
          'Meeting'  means any hearing or other proceeding of a public agency, any convening or assembly of a quorum of a multimember public agency, and any communication by or to a quorum of a multimember public agency... to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power…. [emphasis added]
     9.  It is found that the respondent commission is a multimember public agency, consisting of seven members, and that less than a quorum of its members attended the February 10, 2012 special meeting.
     10. It is also found that the discussions that took place at the February 10, 2012 special meeting did not constitute communication to a quorum of the respondent commission, but they did concern substantive issues over which the respondent commission has "supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power " within the meaning of §1-200(2), G.S.
     11. The Connecticut Supreme Court has stated, as an application of the general FOIA principle that exceptions to disclosure are narrowly construed, that: "the statutory definition of public meetings contained in §1-18a(b) [re-codified as §1-200(2), G.S.] must be read to limit rather than to expand the opportunities for public agencies to hold closed hearings." Glastonbury Education Association v. Freedom of Information Commission, 234 Conn. 704, 713-714 (1995).  It is also specifically concluded that it is not necessary to have a quorum in order to have a “hearing” or “proceeding”, and therefore a "meeting" pursuant to §1-200(2), G.S. As the Appellate Court stated in Emergency Medical Services Commission of the Town of East Hartford v. Freedom of Information Commission, 19 Conn. App. 352, 355 (1989):
          The plain language of General Statutes §1-18a(b) [re-codified as §1-200(2), G.S.] does not require a quorum as a necessary precondition to "any hearing or other proceeding of a public agency...." The word “quorum” does not appear in the clause dealing with "any hearing or other proceeding of a public agency...." The legislature did not define a meeting as any hearing or proceeding of a quorum of a public agency, as it might have done.
     But see Town of Windham v. Freedom of Information Commission, 48 Conn. App. 529, (1998), appeal dismissed, 249 Conn. 291 (1999), where the Supreme Court declined to clarify the conflict between these two Appellate Court decisions; See also Meriden Board of Education v. Freedom of Information Commission, 27 Conn. L. Rptr. 298 (2000); Common Council of the City of Middletown v. Freedom of Information Commission, 16 Conn. L. Rptr. 163 (1996); East Hartford Town Council v. Freedom of Information Commission, 16 Conn. L. Rptr. 121 (1996); Ansonia Library Board of Directors v. Freedom of Information Commission, 42 Conn. Sup. 84 (1991); Bristol v. Freedom of Information Commission, Docket No. 254667, Superior Court, Judicial District of Hartford-New Britain at Hartford, Memorandum of Decision dated April 13, 1983 (Ripley, J.)
     12. It is concluded that the “informal informational session” held during the respondent commission’s February 10, 2012 special meeting was a “hearing” or “proceeding” within the meaning of §1-200(2), G.S.
  
     13. It is therefore concluded that the discussion described in paragraph 6, above, was a “meeting” of the respondent commission within the meaning of §1-200(2), G.S.
     14. Furthermore, §1-210(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that “each . . . [public] agency shall make, keep and maintain a record of the proceedings of its meetings.”
     15. In addition, this Commission has stated that minutes should accurately reflect the business that transpired at a public meeting.
     16. It is found that the minutes of the respondent commission’s February 10, 2012 special meeting do not accurately reflect the business that transpired at that meeting.
     17. Consequently, it is concluded that the respondent commission violated §1-210(a), G.S., by failing to make available to the public the minutes of its February 10, 2012 special meeting within seven days after the meeting and further failed to maintain minutes of the February 10, 2012 special meeting that accurately reflect the business that transpired at that meeting.
     18. With respect to the complainant's request for a civil penalty, the Commission declines to consider the imposition of a civil penalty in this matter.
     The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
     1. The respondent commission shall henceforth comply with the minutes provisions found in §1-210(a), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of February 21, 2013.

__________________________
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:
Sheila McCreven
63 Center Road
Woodbridge, CT  06525
Conservation Commission, Town of
Woodbridge; and Town of Woodbridge
c/o Gerald T. Weiner, Esq.
Weinstein, Weiner, Ignal, Napolitano & Shapiro, P.C.
350 Fairfield Avenue
Bridgeport, CT  06604

____________________________
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC/2012-176/FD/cac/2/21/2013