FOI Commission to hear dispute among Groton town councilors, Groton City
Groton — A hearing is scheduled Aug. 20 before the state's Freedom of Information Commission over a complaint filed by two town councilors who said the city held an illegal meeting.
Town Councilors Bruce Flax and Harry Watson filed the complaint on April 1, after city councilors walked out of a scheduled joint meeting with the town on March 30 to discuss highway funding.
Flax said the city councilors left the joint meeting, stepped into a conference room in the Town Hall annex and closed the door.
The city mayor was upset after she saw the town attorney in the audience at the joint meeting, Flax said.
"The bottom line is we all need to follow the rules. And we want transparency," Flax said.
"It was very brazen," he said. "They walked out of a meeting and marched into a conference room. And you can't do that. When a council meets, they're supposed to post an agenda 24 hours in advance and the citizens have a right to attend."
City Mayor Marian Galbraith presented it differently.
"I don't believe at all that we had an illegal meeting and we're looking forward to going before the (commission) to state our case," she said.
In an earlier an email she said city councilors left the meeting because it became apparent "that the town's attorney was there because the town council considered this meeting as prelude to an arbitration."
The hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Aug. 20 at the Freedom of Information Commission at 18-20 Trinity St., Hartford.
Flax said he received an email from John P. Casey, the attorney representing the city, asking to change the date because Galbraith has a vacation already paid for that she can't change.
The town and city have been fighting over road money for years. In April, the town council cut the city's funding request for roads by nearly half, saying the city spends more per mile on its roads than the town does.
The city had asked for $1.92 million for road maintenance for the fiscal year that started July 1, and town councilors cut $830,000. Galbraith has requested arbitration to settle the dispute.
She said Thursday an arbiter has been assigned to the case and both sides have been asked to produce briefs.
Flax said he wants openness, transparency and a look for efficiencies between the city and town. The city could cut some of its functions in police, recreation and public works and still exist and provide the same services to residents at lesser expense, he said.
"I have a great respect for the City Council and what they provide for the city, but I think there's means to look at how the town and city operate and try to find efficiencies," he said. "And every time we try to do that, the city throws up road blocks."
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