FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Charles J. Cottle

 

Complainant,

 

against Docket #FIC 87-245

 

Clerk, East Haven Board of Education and East Haven Board of Education,

 

Respondents December 15, 1987

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 29, 1987, at which time the complainant and the respondents 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. By letter dated August 28, 1987, and filed with the Commission on August 31, 1987, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents failed to file the minutes of the respondent board's July 28, 1987, regular meeting and the record of votes taken at its August 25, 1987, regular meeting within the required time periods.

 

3. The respondents claim both records were available to the public within the required time periods.

 

4. It is found that the respondent board's administration office is its regular place of business.

 

5. It is found that on August 10, 1987, the complainant requested in person that the respondent board's director of finance provide him with the minutes of the board's July 28, 1987 meeting.

 

6. It is found that the director of finance had not yet received the minutes in the administration office.

 

7. It is found that it is the respondent board's practice to file its minutes at the town clerk's office within seven days

 

Docket #87-245 Page Two

 

of regular meetings, then have a copy sent back to the administration office.

 

8. It is found that the minutes of the respondent board's meetings are public records pertaining to it.

 

9. It is concluded, therefore, that the respondent board violated 1-19(a) and 1-21(a), G.S., by not keeping and maintaining the minutes in its administration office and by not having them available to the public there within seven days after its meeting.

 

10. It is found that on August 28, 1987, the complainant asked the East Haven town clerk to see the record of votes taken at the respondent board's August 25, 1987, regular meeting.

 

11. It is found that the record of the votes was not available at the town clerk's office.

 

12. It is found, however, that the voting record was available to the public at the respondent board's administration office within the required forty-eight-hour time period.

 

13. It is concluded that the respondents did not violate the 1-21(a), G.S., requirement to make the record of votes taken at its meetings available to the public within forty-eight hours.

 

14. Nonetheless, it is found that in the past the respondents were not always consistent in their filing practice or in their staff's explanation of it to members of the public.

 

15. It is found, therefore, that the public could be confused, as the complainant was, about where to obtain the record of votes.

 

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

 

1. The respondent board henceforth shall act in strict compliance with 1-19(a) and 1-21(a), G.S., and shall maintain minutes of its meetings at its administration office and make them available to the public there within seven days of each meeting.

 

2. The Commission commends the respondent board for filing its minutes at the town clerk's office and encourages it to

 

Docket #FIC 87-245 Page Three

 

continue doing so, as long as it also has them available for public inspection in the board's office within seven days of each meeting.

 

3. The respondent board forthwith shall inform the East Haven town clerk that all future requests for the board's records of votes should be referred to the board's administration office.

 

4. The respondent board forthwith shall instruct its staff to explain clearly to members of the public who request records of votes or minutes where and when they are filed.

 

5. The respondent board forthwith shall provide each member of its administrative staff, as well as the East Haven town clerk, with a copy of this decision.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of December 15, 1987.

 

 

Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission