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Final Decision FIC2012-466
In the Matter of a Complaint by
FINAL DECISION
Nancy Beckwith,
     Complainant
     against
Docket #FIC 2012-466
Board of Directors, Poquonnock Bridge
Fire District; and Poquonnock Bridge
Fire District,
     Respondents
April 10, 2013

     The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on January 17, 2013, 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 the respondents noticed and held a special meeting on July 26, 2012,  the notice and agenda for which listed the items of business to be conducted as follows:
          I. ROLL CALL
          II. ITEMS OF BUSINESS
          III. 
               a. Regional radio project
               b. Executive Session
                    1. Retiree colas
                    2. Local 2704 Contract
          IV. ADJOURNMENT
     3.  It is found that pursuant to the agenda items listed under executive session, the respondents convened in executive session and discussed retiree colas and the Local 2704 contract.  It is found that subsequent to the executive session, the respondents voted in open session to accept the proposed retiree colas and the Local 2704 contract presented and discussed during the executive session.
     4.  By letter dated August 21, 2012 and filed on August 24, 2012, the complainant appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by conducting business at its July 26, 2012 special meeting that was not properly noticed on its agenda. The complainant requested that this Commission declare null and void the actions taken at that meeting.
     5.  At the hearing on this matter the complainant contended that the respondents failed to notice on the agenda that it was going to take a vote on the two items of business and that they therefore violated §1-225(d), G.S., by conducting business that was not noticed on the agenda.
     6.  Section 1-225(d), G.S., provides in relevant part that:
          The 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.  No other business shall be considered at such meetings by such public agency. 

     7.  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, whether in person or by means of electronic equipment, to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power.  “Meeting” does not include:  … strategy or negotiations with respect to collective bargaining…
     8.  It is found that the discussion of and vote on the retiree colas and the union contract were strategy and negotiations with respect to collective bargaining within the meaning of §1-200(2), G.S.
     9.  Consequently, the meetings provisions found in the FOI Act are not applicable, and the respondents were not required to notice those discussions on its agenda.
     10. It is concluded, therefore, that the respondents did not violate the FOI Act as alleged.
     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.
     2. The Commission advises the respondents that strategy and negotiations with respect to collective bargaining are not proper subjects for executive session.  Rather, such matters are not meetings within the meaning of the FOI Act.  In the future, it would be prudent to refrain from setting such matters on a meeting agenda as items under executive session.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of April 10, 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:
Nancy Beckwith
5 Orchard Terrace
Groton, CT  06340
Board of Directors, Poquonnock Bridge
Fire District; and Poquonnock Bridge
Fire District
c/o Kristin L. Wainright, Esq.
Tobin, Carberry, O’Malley, Riley & Selinger, P.C.
43 Broad Street
P.O. Box 58
New London, CT  06320
____________________________
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC/2012-466/FD/cac/4/10/2013