FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Jonathan D. Smith,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 86-168

 

State of Connecticut Department of Housing,

 

Respondent September 24, 1986

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 11, 1986, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.

 

After consideration of the entire matter, 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 June 8, 1986 the complainant alleged that he had "recently" received a copy of the Commission's proposed findings in FIC #86-84, that such findings were his first notice of a meeting held on November 8, 1984 and that he wished to file a complaint on the ground that the meeting was held without proper notice.

 

3. In FIC #86-84 Kevin Mullane and the Beechwood Gardens Tenant's Association v. Department of Housing of the State of Connecticut the Commission found that the respondent held a meeting on November 8, 1984 to consider the suitability of Beechwood Gardens as a housing project site, that the meeting notice required by 1-21(a), G.S. was not provided and that the meeting was therefore "unnoticed" within the meaning of 1-21i(b), G.S. Such findings are hereby adopted for purposes of this matter.

 

4. The complaint in FIC #86-84 was dismissed on the ground that the complainant failed to file an appeal within 30 days of notice in fact of the November 8, 1984 meeting, as provided by 1-21i(b), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 86-168 Page Two

 

5. The report of the Hearing Officer in FIC #86-84 was issued on May 8, 1986. Following the issuance of the Hearing Officer's Report, Mr. Mullane distributed a pamphlet, no earlier than May 9, 1986, advising area residents of the report. The complainant in this matter was first advised of the November 8, 1984 meeting by Mr. Mullane's pamphlet.

 

6. It is found that the complaint in this matter was filed within 30 days of the complainant's receipt of notice in fact of an unnoticed meeting within the meaning of 1-21i(b), G.S.

 

7. At hearing the complainant asked that the Commission declare the respondent's November 8, 1984 action null and void and that it order a new hearing to be held.

 

8. The November 8, 1984 meeting was a special meeting within the meaning of 1-21(a), G.S. The only notices of such meeting provided by the respondent were so-called "legal notices" which appeared, in English and in Spanish, in the November 2, 1984 editions of the New Haven Register and the Journal-Courier.

 

9. The newspapers' publication of such notices, however, did not satisfy the requirement of 1-21(a), G.S. that notices of special meetings be placed on file for posting in the office of the Secretary of State.

 

10. It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-21(a), G.S. when it failed to provide the notice of its November 8, 1984 meeting required by such statute. The respondent indicated at hearing that since the issuance of the Final Decision in FIC #86-84 it has complied with the meeting notice requirements of 1-21(a), G.S. with respect to all meetings.

 

11. It is found that the Beechwood Gardens property has been acquired and upgraded as necessary for residence by families with moderate income and that such families have already been placed in Beechwood Gardens.

 

12. Under the circumstances, the Commission declines to declare null and void the respondent's November 8, 1984 decision regarding the suitability of Beechwood Gardens as a housing project site.

 

Docket #FIC 86-168 Page Three

 

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

 

1. The respondent shall, within one week of the Final Decision in this matter, mail a copy of such Final Decision to each of the 82 units in the Beechwood Gardens complex and shall make additional copies of such decision available, at no cost, to persons requesting such.

 

2. The Commission notes that the objections of citizens who feel they were locked out of the decision-making process regarding Beechwood Gardens are not surprising. When the New Haven City Hall became unavailable for a public hearing the respondent chose to hold the hearing on seven days notice, after dark, in a high crime neighborhood with little public transportation, at considerable distance from City Hall or Beechwood Gardens, in a private building where admittance was monitored through locked doors. The circumstances of this case say little for the respondent's interest in, or understanding of, accessible and open public meetings.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of September 24, 1986.

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission