FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Joseph F. Pisani, Susan Rubinowitz and Greenwich Time,

 

Complainants,

 

against Docket #FIC 87-199

 

Board of Directors of Greenwich Emergency Medical Service, Inc. and Greenwich Emergency Medical Service, Inc.,

 

Respondents February 24, 1988

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 15, 1987, at which time the complainants 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 medical service convened in executive session at its July 1, 1987, meeting, to discuss "pending claims and the question of whether this is a public agency."

 

2. By letter dated July 15, 1987, and filed with the Commission on July 17, 1987, the complainants appealed to the Commission alleging that the executive session was improper and that in general the complainant medical service does not give public notice of its meetings and does not make minutes of those meetings publicly available.

 

3. The respondents claim that they are not public agencies and not subject to the open meetings requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.

 

4. As to whether the respondent Greenwich Emergency Medical Service, Inc. ("GEMS") was created by government, the following facts are found:

 

a. In 1980 the Greenwich First Selectman's office commissioned a study and report to help determine the ambulance needs of the town of Greenwich.

 

b. At that time, to obtain ambulance transport a Greenwich resident called either 911, the local police or the local firehouse, and then either the police or firefighters

 

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dispatched an ambulance.

 

c. In May 1983 the Greenwich First Selectman appointed a health officer to work through the First Selectman's office to improve the emergency medical system.

 

d. In the early 1980s there was much discussion among town officials as to whether emergency medical services should be overseen by the First Selectman or the Greenwich Department of Health.

 

e. The First Selectman elected in 1983 wanted the Board of Health to initiate any new emergency medical services.

 

f. In February 1984 the Greenwich Board of Health sought funding from the Greenwich Board of Estimate and Taxation, as well as the Representative Town Meeting, to create an emergency medical service office.

 

g. In that budget request the Board of Health proposed a certain medical emergency system which the First Selectman and the Board of Estimate and Taxation eventually approved and which the town still uses today.

 

h. A large part of the initial funding for the new service came from the Board of Estimate and Taxation and the Representative Town Meeting, and other initial funding from Greenwich Hospital was conditional on the town's financial participation.

 

5. Thus it is concluded that, although the respondent Greenwich Emergency Medical Service ("GEMS") was chartered as a private non-stock corporation, it was created by government to a significant extent.

 

6. As to whether GEMS is funded by government, the following facts are found:

 

a. In 1986, when GEMS began operating, the town of Greenwich provided $108,000 for its initial costs and $245,000 for its operating expenses.

 

b. In 1987, the town budgeted $250,000 for GEMS's operating expenses.

 

c. For 1988, the Board of Health has proposed the town provide another $250,000 for GEMS's operating expenses.

 

d. One of GEMS's three stations, its headquarters, is

 

Docket #FIC 87-199 Page Three

 

located in part of the Parkway School and GEMS pays no rent for the use of this town-owned property.

 

e. The town of Greenwich pays $1,750 annually for membership in the Southwest Emergency Medical Service Council, a regional organization, from which GEMS directly benefits.

 

f. The town pays $10,000 annually to fund C-MED, a VHF medical frequency that provides radio transmission between ambulances and hospitals, from which GEMS directly benefits.

 

g. GEMS buys its gas at about half the retail price through the town fire department for an annual savings of approximately $12,000 - $15,000.

 

h. GEMS uses the town's 911 emergency system and directly benefits from the town's annual funding for that system of approximately $250,000 - $300,000.

 

i. GEMS's plan for responding to calls for emergency medical service assigns the task of being the first to respond to the Greenwich police, thus making the town police department an integral part of GEMS's overall operation.

 

j. Those police officers who have the required emergency medical training to provide this first response receive extra compensation of approximately $1,000 a year.

 

k. The Greenwich fire department spent $2,000 in 1987 for special first-responder equipment kits so that they may back-up the police in providing first response emergency medical service.

 

l. The ambulance formerly used by the town police department was donated to GEMS, along with about $6,000 worth of equipment.

 

7. Thus it is concluded that, although GEMS does not receive all its funds from government sources, it is funded and subsidized by government to a significant extent.

 

8. As to whether GEMS is regulated by government, the following facts are found:

 

a. The Commission takes administrative notice of 19a-175 through 19a-195, G.S., which detail the state regulation of emergency medical services, including

 

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licensing, certification, and public hearings; financial requirements and insurance; requirements for training, equipment and personnel; sanctions for violations; inspection and registration of ambulances; communications systems; public education; volunteer personnel and paramedics; and regional councils.

 

b. GEMS is regulated by these statutes, as well as further regulations, which the statutes authorize, of the state Department of Health and its Office of Emergency Medical Services.

 

c. The municipal government regulates GEMS's use of its headquarters property, the 911 telephone system, the police and fire departments as first responders, the municipal gasoline purchasing arrangements, and the budget processes of the Department of Health, the Board of Estimates and Taxation, and the Representative Town Meeting.

 

9. Although the Commission recognizes that all health care providers, both public and private, are regulated carefully by the state government, it concludes that the Greenwich municipal government is involved integrally in GEMS's operations and that GEMS is regulated by government.

 

10. As to whether GEMS performs a governmental function, the following facts are found:

 

a. GEMS currently performs a service previously performed by the municipal police and fire departments.

 

b. The municipal police and fire departments are still an integral part of that service.

 

c. Although private companies do provide emergency medical service, in the town of Greenwich such service traditionally has been a governmental function; the town considered hiring a private company and decided not to do so, because the service and its arrangements with the town were different from what the town desired; and the town chose a system that includes several town departments.

 

11. Thus it is concluded that GEMS performs a governmental function.

 

12. It is further concluded that GEMS and the other respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S., and subject to the open meetings requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.

 

Docket #FIC 87-199 Page Five

 

13. At the hearing the parties stipulated that if the Commission were to conclude the respondent medical service was a public agency at the time of the executive session in question, the reason for the session was not for a purpose permitted under the Freedom of Information Act.

 

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

 

1. The respondents henceforth shall act in strict compliance with 1-18a(e) and 1-21(a), G.S.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of February 24, 1988.

 

 

Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission