CITY OF MERIDEN et al.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION et al.
May 14, 2019
from Superior Court, Judicial District of New Britain, Henry
Cohn, Judge Trial Referee, 2018 WL 1041640, dismissed. City
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Deborah Leigh Moore, for the appellants (plaintiffs).
Dee Harmon, commission counsel, for the appellee (defendant
Freedom of Information Commission).
Moll and Bishop, Js.
Conn.App. 650] The plaintiffs, the city of Meriden and the
Meriden City Council (city council), appeal from the judgment
of the trial court dismissing their appeal from the final
decision of the defendant Freedom of Information Commission
(commission), in which the commission found that the city
council violated the open meeting requirements of the Freedom
of Information Act (FOIA), General Statutes § 1-200 et seq.,
General Statutes § 1-225 (a). On appeal, the plaintiff
claims that the court erred in concluding that (1) a
gathering of less than a quorum of city council members to
set an agenda and decide to submit a resolution for action by
the full city council constituted a "meeting" under
§ 1-200 (2), and (2) such a gathering constituted "a
step in the process of agency-member activity" that made
it a "proceeding" and, therefore, a
"meeting" within the meaning of § 1-200 (2). We
reverse the judgment of the trial court.
following undisputed facts and procedural history are
relevant to our resolution of this appeal. On [191 Conn.App.
651] January 3, 2016, the four political leaders of the city
council, i.e., the majority and minority leaders and their
deputies (leadership group), gathered at city hall with the
mayor and the retiring city manager to discuss the search for
a new city manager. The leadership group arrived at a
consensus to submit a resolution for action by the city
council to create a city manager search committee. The
leadership group drafted a one page resolution, which
included the names of people to be appointed to the committee
and detailed the duties of such committee, including
recommending to the city council suitable candidates for the
city manager position. At the January 19, 2016 city council
meeting, the leadership group introduced the resolution,
which subsequently was placed on the councils consent
January 25, 2016, an editor for the Meriden Record
Journal filed a complaint with the commission
alleging that the January 3, 2016 leadership group gathering
was an unnoticed and private meeting in violation of § 1-225
(a). Following a hearing on April 18, 2016,
at which both parties appeared and presented evidence, the
commission issued a final decision on November 16, 2016. In
that decision, the commission found that the leadership [191
Conn.App. 652] group "gather[s] regularly with the mayor
and city manager" to remain informed about issues that
the city council may need to address. During these
gatherings, the group "decides whether an issue requires
city council action, and when necessary ... discusses and
drafts a resolution to go on the agenda of a city council
meeting." The commission also found that such gatherings
are not intended to constitute a quorum of the city council,
which requires a meeting of at least ...