The city of Hartford and Mayor Eddie A. Perez have filed an appeal in Superior Court seeking a stay and a reversal of the state Freedom of Information Commission's September ruling that Perez broke the law when he convened closed-door meetings to discuss corporate support for a new downtown arena.
The commission's ruling included a $500 civil penalty for Perez, a recommendation that he and city Corporation Counsel John Rose attend a workshop on the Freedom of Information Act and that the city release minutes from all the arena task force's meetings.
The appeal, filed in Superior Court in New Britain by the city's hired attorney, J. Hanson Guest, contends that the commission's decision violated statutory authority and exceeded the agency's authority on several fronts, including that the complainants failed to properly serve notice on the task force; that the task force is exempt from public disclosure of minutes and from public access to its meetings; that the commission ignored established legal precedent applicable to the imposition of a civil penalty; that the task force is not a public agency; and that the commission ignored certain evidence and gave considerable weight to unreliable evidence.
This year The Courant filed a Freedom of Information Act complaint contending that the task force was a public agency and therefore subject to open meetings laws and public access to meeting minutes.
In his September ruling, hearing officer and commissioner Dennis E. O'Connor found that Perez had created the task force and as a result, it was a public agency. He also found that the task force meetings held at the MetroHartford Alliance, which is not a public building, were public meetings and that "moving the location of the arena task force ... did not affect its status as a public agency."
The commission later unanimously adopted O'Connor's report.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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