SOUTHINGTON — The state Freedom of Information Commission concurred with a hearing officer’s opinion that a Republican caucus last year didn’t constitute a meeting and therefore didn’t violate any state notice and record-keeping requirements.
Democrat John Moise, appointed to the Board of Fire Commissioners after an unsuccessful Board of Finance bid in November, filed the complaint. He claimed a gathering of council Republicans last summer constituted a meeting and was subject to FOI rules.
In a draft decision released earlier this year, hearing officer Tracie Brown said only Republicans attended a caucus meeting on Aug. 1 and only campaign-related matters were discussed. Moise's complaint alleged that Republicans attended the meeting in person but then called Democratic Councilor Dawn Miceli for her views on the town manager's appointment.
All the Republicans in the meeting and Miceli testified that no one was called during the caucus.
Brown said she found only Republicans attended or participated in the Aug. 1 meeting. The gathering was a caucus, she wrote, and not a meeting subject to FOI rules. In February, the Freedom of Information Commission voted unanimously to approve Brown’s report.
Last year, Republicans blasted Moise's complaint, saying it was an election-year ploy. Michael Riccio, a Republican councilor who was at the meeting and former chairman, said Moise’s complaint was only “assumptions and surmises” without any facts.
“We knew we did nothing wrong from the beginning,” Riccio said Monday. “It’s very, very sad when people use politics and the court system for their own political benefits.”
Moise declined to comment Monday, referring to statements he made after the hearing officer’s report was released.
Moise said the caucus was a "loophole" in a disclosure law that allowed Republicans to make decisions behind closed doors. He's still convinced the town manager's appointment wasn't handled properly, but said testimony given at the FOI hearing didn't back up his case.
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