FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

William A. Oppenheimer and Kathleen F. Oppenheimer,

 

Complainants,

 

against Docket #FIC 87-313

 

Diane Taylor, Chairman, John Hirschauer, Doris Almgren, Town of Redding Planning Commission and Stanley Boehm, Land-Use Coordinator of the Town of Redding,

 

Respondents March 9, 1988

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 3, 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. By letter of complaint filed October 17, 1987, the complainants alleged that the respondents held an illegal meeting September 30, 1987 and that the respondents denied them access to a tape recording of that meeting.

 

3. The complainants alleged that the respondents failed to file a notice of the meeting and subsequently denied them access to a tape recording of the meeting.

 

4. The respondents alleged that no meeting was held and, therefore, no notice was required.

 

5. The respondents claimed further that no tape recording of the meeting had been made.

 

6. It is found that, at about 6 p.m., September 30, 1987, the respondents gathered to consider an application for subdivision, and after brief discussion, the application under consideration was withdrawn.

 

7.     It is found that the gathering was a special meeting within the meaning of 1-21, G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 87-313 page two

 

8. It is found that no action was taken at the September 30, 1987 meeting.

 

9. It is found that the complainant, William Oppenheimer, had incorrect information about the time for the meeting, and that, when he questioned the coordinator for the respondents about the time of the meeting, his misinformation was not corrected.

 

10. It is found that the meeting did not comply with the requirements of 1-21, G.S. because no notice of the meeting was filed and the minutes of the meeting were filed late.

 

11. It is found that, although the complainants did not arrive at the meeting until after it was concluded, the failure of the respondents to comply with 1-21, G.S. was not the reason they did not arrive at 6:00 P.M.

 

12. It is found that the complainants and the coordinator for the respondents were involved in lengthy negotiations with respect to the complainants' desire to have access to the tape recording of the meeting.

 

13. It is found that the delay and difficulty which characterized the negotiations were the result of the inadvertent failure of the respondents to tape the meeting in accordance with their usual practice.

 

14. It is found that, since the respondents have no tape recording of the meeting, there is no violation of either 1-15 or 1-19(a), G.S. arising from their failure to provide such a tape recording to the complainants.

 

15. The complainants seek a civil penalty.

 

16. It is found under the circumstances of this case that a civil penalty is not appropriate.

 

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

 

1. The respondents shall comply henceforth with the requirements of 1-21, G.S.

 

2. The respondents are urged to become better informed about the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act, since failure to comply not only deprives the public of important rights of access but also could lead to the imposition of civil penalties as high as $1,000.00 for each violation.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of March 9, 1988.

 

 

Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission