FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Barbara A. Coleman,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 88-68

 

Greenwich Planning and Zoning Commission,

 

Respondent July 13, 1988

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 25, 1988, at which time the complainant and the respondent 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 is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. At its meeting of February 2, 1988, the respondent denied the complainant's site plan application.

 

3. By letter of complaint dated February 23, 1988 and filed with the Commission on February 29, 1988, the complainant alleged the respondent failed to provide her with personal notice of its February 2, 1988 meeting, at which it denied her site plan application. The complainant also requested the vote denying her site plan application be declared null and void.

 

4. Specifically, the complainant alleged that the respondent violated 1-21(a), G.S., by failing to contact her attorney by telephone prior to the February 2, 1988 meeting to notify him of the meeting and to advise him to pick up the meeting's agenda and written comments of the staff and town departments regarding the application.

 

5. By letter dated February 29, 1988, the complainant amended her complaint, alleging the respondent held a special meeting on February 2, 1988 and failed to file a notice with the town clerk, as required by 1-21(a), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 88-68 Page 2

 

6. By letter dated March 11, 1988, the complainant further amended her complaint, alleging that if the respondent's February 2, 1988 meeting was a regular meeting, the respondent failed to file an annual schedule of its regular meetings for the ensuing year by January 31, 1988, as required by 1-21(a), G.S.

 

7. The respondent claims:

 

a. It was not obligated to provide the complainant with personal notice, either by telephone or otherwise, of its February 2, 1988 regular meeting.

 

b. It did not violate 1-21(a), G.S., by failing to file a notice of special meeting for its February 2, 1988 meeting with the town clerk.

 

c. The complainant failed to prove that the respondent filed an annual schedule of its regular meetings for the ensuing year after January 31, 1988, in violation of 1-21(a), G.S.

 

8. It is found that the respondent's February 2, 1988 meeting was a regular meeting. The complainant was unaware that her site plan application would be considered by the respondent at that meeting.

 

9. With respect to the respondent's failure to give the complainant personal notice of its February 2, 1988 regular meeting, it is found that absent a request for notice pursuant to 1-21c, G.S., there is no provision in the Freedom of Information Act requiring an agency to notify, by telephone or otherwise, applicants or their attorneys of its meetings.

 

10. It also is found that the complainant did not make a written request, pursuant to 1-21c, G.S., to receive notice of the respondent's 1988 special and regular meetings.

 

11. Although there is nothing in 1-21(a), G.S., that prohibits an agency from adopting more stringent notice requirements, it further is found that the Commission lacks jurisdiction over the issue of whether the respondent complied with its alleged long-standing practice of contacting applicants and their attorneys by telephone.

 

12. Although the complainant raises a due process claim concerning the respondent's failure to provide her with personal notice of its February 2, 1988 regular meeting, the Commission lacks jurisdiction over that issue.

 

Docket #FIC 88-68 Page 3

 

13. It therefore is concluded the respondent did not violate 1-21(a), G.S., by failing to provide the complainant with personal notice of its February 2, 1988 regular meeting.

 

14. With respect to the respondent's failure to file a notice of its February 2, 1988 meeting with the town clerk, it is found the meeting was not a special meeting and consequently no notice of special meeting was required to be filed with the town clerk.

 

15. It therefore is concluded that the respondent did not violate 1-21(a), G.S., by failing to file a notice of special meeting of its February 2, 1988 regular meeting with the town clerk.

 

16. With respect to the respondent's filing of an annual schedule of its regular meetings for the ensuing year, it is found that at its December 15, 1987 regular meeting, the respondent adopted a 1988 schedule of its regular meetings.

 

17. It is found that the respondent files its annual schedule of regular meetings with the town clerk, who then posts the schedule on a bulletin board in her office.

 

18. It is found, however, that neither the respondent nor the town clerk has a system for recording the date on which the respondent files with the town clerk its annual schedule of regular meetings.

 

19. On April 27, 1988, the Commission, pursuant to 1-21j-36 of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies, ordered the respondent to submit additional sworn testimony indicating the date it filed with the town clerk a 1988 schedule of its regular meetings and whether the complainant, pursuant to 1-21c, G.S., made a written request to receive notice of its 1988 special and regular meetings.

 

20. It is found that on May 10, 1988, the respondent submitted to the Commission an affidavit of the Town Planner indicating that he could not determine whether the respondent filed with the town clerk a 1988 schedule of its regular meetings prior to March 29, 1988 and could not find a written request from the complainant to receive notice of its special and regular meetings.

 

21. It is found that the only evidence presented to the Hearing Officer indicating the filing date of the respondent's 1988 schedule of its regular meetings was a copy of the schedule, which was date-stamped as having been received by the town clerk on March 29, 1988.

 

Docket #FIC 88-68 Page 4

 

22. For the reasons stated in paragraphs 20 and 21, above, it is found the respondent failed to prove that it filed an annual schedule of its regular meetings for the ensuing year by January 31, 1988, as required by 1-21(a), G.S.

 

23. It therefore is concluded that the respondent violated 1-21(a), G.S., by failing to file with the town clerk an annual schedule of its regular meetings for the ensuing year by January 31, 1988.

 

24. It is found that pursuant to 8-8, G.S., the complainant has appealed to the Superior Court the respondent's denial of her site plan application.

 

25. The Commission therefore declines to declare the respondent's vote denying the complainant's site plan application null and void.

 

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

 

1. The respondent shall henceforth act in strict compliance with the requirements of 1-21(a), G.S., regarding the filing of an annual schedule of its regular meetings for the ensuing year by January 31st of that year.

 

2. The respondent shall make the necessary arrangements to develop a system for recording the date on which it files with the town clerk an annual schedule of its regular meetings.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of July 13, 1988.

 

Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission