The mayor of Hartford unlawfully held closed meetings with a city arena-planning group, according to Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Commission.
The commission voted unanimously on Wednesday in favor of The Hartford Courant, which filed a complaint on the issue in April. Mayor Eddie A. Perez faces a $500 fine and was encouraged to attend seminars on the state’s public information laws, according to the commission’s decision.
The arena-planning group also has seven days to make detailed minutes of the meetings available to the public.
According to The Courant, Perez invited business and elected officials, a union representative and city and state employees to join the group in order to gauge support for a new arena in Hartford.
Before the group’s inaugural meeting on April 9 at Hartford’s city hall, press releases were dispersed to the public. But the public was barred from actually attending the gathering. Subsequent meetings were held at a local office building.
The commission’s report concluded the city violated the Freedom of Information Act by refusing to open the meetings to the public.
The city’s attorney argued to the commission that the arena group should not be considered a public agency because most of the meetings were not held at city hall. But the commission found that because the group was organized by Perez, it is classified as a public agency under Connecticut law.
Beyond that, the commission said moving the meetings out of city hall "did not affect the task force’s status as a public agency."
The commission’s decision will be made official next week, at which time the city may accept or appeal the decision.