FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
against Docket #FIC 88-218
State of Connecticut Department of Human Resources,
Respondent October 26, 1988
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on August 1, 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. In the April 19, 1988 edition of the Connecticut Law Journal there appeared a Notice of Intent to Adopt Regulations which stated that the commissioner of the respondent, "under the authority of P.A. 87-473," intended to adopt regulations pertaining to fair hearings. The notice further stated that the proposed regulations were available for inspection at the respondent's offices, and that a public hearing would be held on them from 10:00 to 1:00 on Wednesday, May 25, 1988.
3. Public Act 87-473 is entitled "An Act Concerning Welfare Hearings and Appeals," but sections 5 and 6 of P.A. 87-473 establish procedures for fair hearings on decisions of the commissioner of the respondent.
4. It is found that on May 24, 1988 the complainant, a family day care provider, received a letter from the commissioner of the respondent which stated that the respondent intended to revise family day care home regulations "in the near future."
5. On May 24, 1988 the complainant telephoned the offices of the respondent to inquire about the proposed revisions and was told that a public hearing on them was to be held the next day. The complainant requested that the hearing be delayed to allow her time to prepare a response, which request was denied.
Docket #FIC 88-218 Page Two
6. The regulations considered at the May 25, 1988 public hearing establish uniform procedures for fair hearings for any aggrieved recipient of benefits under any program of the respondent, including day care.
7. The complainant appeared at the May 25, 1988 hearing and offered comments and presented certain documents as evidence. At the public hearing a 30-day extension was granted to persons wishing to submit additional comments in writing.
8. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on June 13, 1988 the complainant alleged that the notice published in the Connecticut Law Journal gave no notice to the public or to day care providers that the proposed regulations concerned day care and that the respondent violated chapter 3 of the General Statutes by failing to provide adequate notice 24 hours in advance of the public hearing.
9. At hearing, the complainant requested the imposition of a civil penalty against the respondent, and asked that the respondent be required to hold another public hearing on the proposed regulations, with adequate notice.
10. It is found that the May 25, 1988 hearing was a "hearing or other proceeding" of the respondent and was therefore a "meeting" within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S.
11. It is found that the respondent did not file a notice of its May 25, 1988 meeting with the secretary of the state pursuant to 1-21(a), G.S.
12. However, 1-21i(c), G.S., provides that a public agency of the state shall be presumed to have given timely and proper notice of any meeting, as required by 1-21 to 1-21k, G.S., if notice is given in the Connecticut Law Journal.
13. It is concluded that the respondent's failure to file a notice of its May 25, 1988 meeting with the secretary of the state did not violate 1-21(a), G.S.
14. It is found that the notice provided in the Connecticut Law Journal accurately stated the commissioner's intention to adopt regulations pertaining to fair hearings, but was misleading in that the title of the public act to which interested persons were referred gave the impression that only welfare programs were involved.
15. As a result, persons reviewing the notice provided in the Connecticut Law Journal would have discovered the actual nature of the regulations only by carefully reading a lengthy public act.
Docket #FIC 88-218 Page Three
16. The Commission notes that to the extent the notice was misleading, it was so due to the way in which the public act was titled, not due to any act or omission of the respondent in the preparation of the notice.
17. It is found that, although imperfect, the notice provided in the Connecticut Law Journal was not so flawed as to rebut the presumption, established by 1-21i(c), G.S., that it was timely and proper.
18. It is also noted that the consequences of any confusion resulting from the notice were minimized by the respondent's decision to extend the comment period for 30 days.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint.
1. The complaint is hereby dismissed.
Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of October 26, 1988.
Catherine H. Lynch
Acting Clerk of the Commission