FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Jenny Cloudman,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 86-81

 

Finance and Budget Committee of the Darien Representative Town Meeting,

 

Respondent May 14, 1986

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 15, 1986, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.

 

After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found:

 

1. The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. At a March 17, 1986 meeting of the Darien Representative Town Meeting ("RTM") the chairman of the respondent presented a committee report based upon discussions and votes taken at a March 13, 1986 meeting of the respondent.

 

3. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on March 26, 1986 the complainant alleged that the respondent failed to record minutes of its meetings of January 23, 1986, January 30, 1986 and March 13, 1986 and that the respondent failed to record votes taken at the March 13, 1986 meeting within 48 hours, as required by 1-21(a), G.S.

 

4. The complainant requested that the Commission declare null and void the actions taken at the respondent's March 13, 1986 meeting.

 

5.     It is found that as of April 7, 1986 the respondent had failed to file minutes of its meetings of January 23, 1986 and January 30, 1986. The respondent's failure to file minutes of such meetings violated both 1-19(a), G.S., which provides that every public agency shall make, keep and maintain a record of the proceedings of its meetings, and 1-21(a), G.S., which requires that minutes of meetings be made available to the public within seven days, excluding weekends and holidays.

 

Docket #FIC 86-81 Page Two

 

6. Minutes of the respondent's March 13, 1986 meeting were placed on file on April 4, 1986. Votes taken on March 13, 1986 were not recorded and made available for public inspection within 48 hours, as required by 1-21(a), G.S. The failure of the respondent to place minutes of its March 13, 1986 meeting on file within seven days or to make available a record of votes within 48 hours violated 1-21(a), G.S.

 

7. Although not specifically raised by the complainant, the Commission notes that the respondent failed to provide proper notice of its March 13, 1986 meeting, in violation of 1-21(a), G.S.

 

8. The respondent claims that oversights regarding the March 13, 1986 meeting were due to the absence from several meetings of a member who had agreed to act as secretary and to the refusal of any member of the respondent to take permanent responsibility for secretarial duties. The respondent also claims that the fact that the RTM was considering the unusual move of rejecting the budget created an "emergency" situation which contributed to the confusion.

 

9. It is found that the refusal of any member of the respondent to take responsibility for secretarial duties does not excuse the respondent from the performance of the requirements of 1-19(a) and 1-21(a), G.S. regarding the creation and timely filing of minutes of meetings.

 

10. It is also found that the possibility that the budget would be rejected did not relieve the respondent of its responsibility to make its meetings accessible. Rather, such a possibility may have created an even greater interest in the activities of the respondent and an increased need for accountability.

 

11. Because the March 17, 1986 report to the RTM recorded much of what transpired at the respondent's March 13, 1986 meeting the Commission declines to declare null and void the respondent's March 13, 1986 actions.

 

The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint.

 

1. The respondent shall forthwith designate a secretary who shall assume the responsibility of keeping a record of the proceedings of the respondent's meetings.

 

Docket #FIC 86-81 Page Three

 

2. The respondent shall henceforth act in strict compliance with the requirements of 1-19(a) and 1-21(a), G.S. regarding the recording of votes and the creation and timely filing of minutes of meetings in the office of the municipal clerk as long as the respondent does not maintain its own office or principle place of business.

 

3. The respondent shall, within one week of the final decision in this matter, create minutes of its January 23, 1986 and January 30, 1986 meetings and shall make such minutes available for public inspection, as provided by 1-21(a), G.S.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of May 14, 1986.

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission