FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Anthony Barrett,

 

Complainant,

 

against Docket #FIC 87-193

 

Dean of Student Affairs and Executive Dean, Western Connecticut State University,

 

Respondents May 11, 1988

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on August 6 and October 22, 1987, and March 2, 1988, at which times 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 respondent deans, Western Connecticut State University, and its president are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. By letters dated June 1 and 22, 1987, the complainant requested the respondent executive dean provide him with a copy of the bylaws of the University Foundation and the Western One Hundred Society. The complainant further requested that, if no such bylaws exist, the respondent executive dean provide copies of documents describing the structure and function of these two organizations.

 

3. By letter dated June 12, 1987, the respondent dean of student affairs denied the complainant's request.

 

4. By letter dated June 25, 1987, and filed with the Commission on July 6, 1987, the complainant appealed to the Commission from the denial of his request.

 

5. The respondents claim the University Foundation and the Western One Hundred Society are not public agencies and not subject to the open records provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. The respondents also claim they do not have the records in question.

 

Docket #FIC 87-193 Page Two

 

6. It is found that the University Foundation is an organization that acts as a conduit, receiving and administering donations of private funds which it disburses to aid specific activities of the university.

 

7. It is found that the Western One Hundred Society is a group organized by the University Foundation for people who contribute at least one hundred dollars annually to the University Foundation.

 

8. It is found that the University Foundation has written bylaws.

 

9. It is found that the Western 100 Society has no separate written bylaws, but does have a descriptive brochure about itself.

 

10. It is found that at the time of the complainant's request these records were maintained by the administrative assistant to the university's president, in her office at the same address as the respondents' offices.

 

11. It is found that the respondent executive dean is the secretary of the University Foundation.

 

12. It is found that in his capacity as dean, the respondent executive dean is the university's official liaison with the University Foundation and spends up to ten percent of his time as a public employee fulfilling his liaison duties.

 

13. It is found that, sometime after the Commission held its hearing on August 6 and October 22, 1987, the respondent executive dean moved all records of the University Foundation, including those described in paragraphs 8 and 9, above, from the university's offices to a private location.

 

14. It is concluded that the requested records were public records when the university was maintaining them, including at the time the complainant requested them and while the Commission held two days of its hearing on the matter.

 

15. It is concluded, therefore, that the respondents violated 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., by denying the complainant access to public records.

 

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

 

Docket #FIC 87-193 Page Three

 

1. The respondent executive dean forthwith shall either:

 

a. provide the complainant with a copy of the University Foundation's written bylaws and the Western 100 Society's descriptive brochure, or

 

b. show cause why the Commission should not impose a civil penalty against him for withholding records without reasonable grounds.

 

2. The Commission abhors the executive dean's actions of removing the records and attempting to change the outcome of this case while the Commission was still holding its hearing on the matter.

 

3. In addition, the Commission notes that the respondent dean's actions ignore the requirements of 11-8, G.S., which provides for the retention and properly timed disposal of state records.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 11, 1988.

 

 

Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission