FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Mary Ellen Marucci,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 88-179

 

Chairman, Building Committee of the New Haven Board of Education, Building Committee of the New Haven Board of Education and Superintendentof Schools of the City of New Haven,

 

Respondents September 14, 1988

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 5, 1988, 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 May 10, 1988, the complainant requested copies of minutes of all past meetings of the respondent committee.

 

3. The complainant did not receive a response to her request.

 

4. A copy of the complainant's May 10, 1988 letter was filed with the Commission as a letter of complaint on May 12, 1988, in which the complainant alleged that the respondent committee violated the Freedom of Information Act (hereinafter "FOIA") in that:

 

a. It failed to provide her with personal notice of its meetings.

 

b. It denied her access to its May 10, 1988 meeting.

 

Docket #FIC 88-179 Page 2

 

c. It failed to provide her with copies of minutes of all past meetings.

 

5. The complainant also requested that the respondent committee have a disinterested party record the minutes of its meetings which are closed to the public and provide the public with notice of its meetings.

 

6. By letter dated June 24, 1988 and filed with the Commission on July 5, 1988, the complainant explained in detail that she was denied access to the respondent committee's May 10, 1988 meeting.

 

7. The respondents claim that the respondent committee permissibly convened in executive session at its May 10, 1988 meeting under 1-18a(e)(1) and 1-18a(e)(4), G.S.

 

8. The respondents also claim that there is no provision in the FOIA requiring a public agency to employ a disinterested party to record the minutes of a meeting that is closed to the public.

 

9. At the hearing, the respondents stated that they would provide the complainant with copies of minutes of the respondent committee meetings.

 

10. On or about March 10, 1988, the complainant requested, in writing, the names and addresses of the respondent committee members. The complainant wished to contact the members for the purpose of discovering when the respondent committee would be holding meetings.

 

11. It is found that the complainant failed to file a written request to receive personal notice of the respondent committee meetings within the meaning of 1-21c, G.S.

 

12. It therefore is concluded that the respondent committee did not violate 1-21c, G.S., by failing to provide the complainant with personal notice of its meetings.

 

13. It is found that on April 18, 1988, the assistant superintendent informed two architectural firms that the respondent committee would be reviewing their portfolios regarding the Magnet School building project at its May 10, 1988 meeting.

 

Docket #FIC 88-179 Page 3

 

14. It is found that on May 10, 1988, the representatives of the architectural firms indicated that they wished to discuss their possible employment with the New Haven Board of Education in executive session.

 

15. It is found that the respondent committee held a meeting on May 10, 1988, at which it convened in executive session for the stated purpose of discussing fees with the representatives from the two architectural firms.

 

16. It is found that the respondents failed to prove that the representatives from the architectural firms are public employees or public officers within the meaning of 1-18a(e)(1), G.S.

 

17. It is found that the respondent committee did not convene in executive session for a permissible purpose under 1-18a(e)(1), G.S.

 

18. It is found that the respondents failed to prove that the discussion in executive session related to the selection of a site of real estate within the meaning of 1-18a(e)(4), G.S.

 

19. It also is found that the respondents failed to prove that publicity of that site would likely result in an increased price to the City of New Haven within the meaning of 1-18a(e)(4), G.S.

 

20. It further is found that the respondent committee did not convene in executive session for a permissible purpose under 1-18a(e)(4), G.S.

 

21. It therefore is concluded that the respondents violated 1-18a(e) and 1-21(a), G.S., by convening in executive session for an improper purpose.

 

22. It is found that the respondents failed to respond in writing to the complainant's request for copies of minutes within four business days, in violation of 1-21i(a), G.S.

 

23. It also is found that the complainant has waited approximately eight weeks for an indication from the respondent committee that they would provide her with copies of the requested minutes.

 

24. It therefore is concluded that the respondents failed to provide the complainant with prompt access to the requested minutes, in violation of 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 88-179 Page 4

 

25. It is found that there is no provision in the FOIA requiring a public agency to employ a disinterested party to record the minutes of a meeting that is closed to the public.

 

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

 

1. The respondents forthwith shall provide the complainant with copies of minutes of the respondent committee's meetings described in paragraph 2 of the findings, above.

 

2. Henceforth, the respondents shall act in strict compliance with the requirements of 1-15, 1-18a(e), 1-19(a), 1-21(a) and 1-21i(a)G.S.

 

3. The respondents shall contact the Commission to arrange for an educational workshop concerning the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act. The workshop shall be held within 60 days from the date the respondents receive notice of the final decision in this matter. The respondents are encouraged to invite all members of the New Haven Board of Education to attend the workshop.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of September 14, 1988.

 

 

Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission