FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

David McKay Wilson and The New Haven Advocate,

 

Complainants

 

against Docket #FIC 86-83

 

Board of Tax Review of New Haven,

 

Respondent May 14, 1986

 

The above captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 15, 1986, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts 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. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on March 27, 1986 the complainant Wilson alleged that the respondent held unnoticed meetings on March 19, 1986, March 21, 1986 and March 24, 1986. The complainant further alleged that he made a request of the secretary for the respondent board for minutes of its meetings for the past seven years and was informed that no minutes of the respondent board exist.

 

3. The respondent admits holding meetings on the dates in question, concerning tax assessments with respect to which neither notices nor minutes had been filed.

 

4. The respondent claims, however, that the meetings were "deliberative sessions" at which evidence is reviewed by the respondent to determine whether a taxpayer's property has been accurately assessed.

 

Docket #FIC 86-83 Page 2

 

5. The respondent further claims that the evidence reviewed usually contains personal information about the taxpayer, such as income statements, rental statements and appraisals and that this information is not discloseable to the public.

 

6. It is found that the deliberative sessions in question were meetings within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S.

 

7. It is found that the respondent has no prior knowledge of the evidence that will be introduced or the subject matter of the appeal until the actual day of the hearing.

 

8. It is further found that one of the reasons for the respondent's closed meeting policy is the "fair" number of its appeals that go to court.

 

9. It is found that although the respondent may be permitted to conduct some of its deliberations in executive session, such a fact does not sanction a closed meeting policy or excuse the respondent from complying with the open meetings requirements of 1-21(a),G.S.

 

10. It is concluded that the respondent's failure to file notice of the meetings in question is a violation of 1-21, G.S.

 

11. It is found that the only record of its meetings kept by the respondent is a compilation sheet of the reductions granted.

 

14. It is concluded that the failure of the respondent to keep minutes of any of its meetings constitutes a continuing violation of 1-19(a) and 1-21, G.S.

 

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

 

1. The respondent shall henceforth keep minutes and file notices of all of its meetings in accordance with 1-19(a) and 1-21, G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 86-83 Page 3

 

2. The respondent is ordered to appear at a supplemental hearing on May 22, 1986, in order to show cause why a civil penalty should not be imposed pursuant to 1-21i(b), G.S.

 

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

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission