Stonington selectmen held illegal meeting, state FOI officer finds

Stonington - A state Freedom of Information Commission hearing officer has recommended that the full commission find the Board of Selectmen held an illegal emergency meeting on Dec. 3, 2012, to accept open space plans for a controversial Pawcatuck condominium development.

Hearing Officer Lisa Fein Seigel found the meeting was not an emergency as defined by state law. However, she said she is not recommending that the commission declare the acceptance of the plan "null and void."

The Day, which had filed a complaint with the commission over the meeting, had asked the decision be vacated.

She made the recommendation because "such action was essentially ministerial in nature, and because the respondents did not act in bad faith to avoid the notice requirements of the FOI Act."

The full commission is scheduled to meet on July 24 to decide whether to accept her recommendation. The proposed decision orders the town, which the commission has found to have violated FOI law on two other occasions over the past 18 months, strictly comply with the law regarding notification of meetings. State freedom of information law only permits emergency meetings in extraordinary circumstances.

After the Planning and Zoning Commission approved the Crescent Club project on Mary Hall Road in Pawcatuck, opponents appealed to Superior Court. As part of a settlement, Cherenzia had to have the town accept its open space plans and file them in Town Hall within 90 days. Two 90-day extensions were then granted.

According to Siegel's decision, that through either a misreading of the statute or a miscalculation of the days remaining in the extension, the town did not realize until the morning of Dec. 3 that the deadline was that day. To meet the deadline the emergency meeting was held to accept the plan.

Records show, however, that the developer, Cherenzia Excavation of Pawcatuck, still filed the plans one day after the deadline expired.


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