In the Matter of a Complaint by                        FINAL DECISION


Stephen J. Link,




            against              Docket #FIC 88-102


Easton Board of Police Commissioners,


                        Respondent                  March 22, 1989


            The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 9 and 23, 1988, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  The matter was consolidated with Docket #FIC 88-135 for hearing.


            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.  By mailgram filed with the Commission on March 23, 1988, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging the denial of his requests on the policies and procedures for filing a complaint against the Easton police department.


            3.  It is found that by mailgram dated February 6, 1988, the complainant wrote to the Easton first selectman, stating, among other things, that he intended to file a formal complaint about a specific police incident and the officers involved and that he was awaiting specific information on the procedure for filing his complaint.


            4.  It is found that on February 8, 1988, the complainant met with the first selectman, asked how to file complaints with the respondent and the Easton ethics board, and was assured that he could consider his complaint registered and that it would be taken care of.


            5.  It is found that by letter dated February 19, 1988, the respondent's chairman outlined for the complainant certain procedures for filing a formal complaint, including the requirement of sending a letter indicating the date, time and nature of the complaint to the police chief or, if the complaint was about the chief, to the respondent.


Docket #FIC 88-102                           Page Two


            6.  It is found that by letter dated February 29, 1988, the complainant requested that the respondent provide him with the specific time, date and minutes of the respondent's review of his complaint.


            7.  It is found that at that time no such review had taken place and no such minutes existed.


            8.  It is found that sometime between February 19 and March 4, 1988, the complainant learned for the first time through an article in a local newspaper that to complain formally about certain actions of the Easton police department he would have to file a sworn written complaint.


            9.  It is found that by letter dated March 4, 1988, the respondent's chairman informed the complainant that the respondent had not yet received "any detailed complaints" and that, among other things, a sworn written complaint submitted to the Chief of Police was required before an employee could be disciplined.


            10.  It is also found that by mailgram dated March 4, 1988, the complainant requested that the respondent's chairman inform him specifically as to whom to submit his complaint to be verified as sworn testimony.


            11.  It is found that by letter dated March 7, 1988, the respondent's chairman replied his letter of March 4, 1988, answered the complainant's correspondence of both February 29 and March 4, 1988.


            12.  It is found that by mailgram dated March 10, 1988, the complainant asked the respondent:


                        a.  to whom should he submit his complaint to be verified as sworn testimony;


                        b.  what requirements existed concerning witness testimony pertinent to the complaint;


                        c.  what would insure that statements by the subject of the complaint were sworn statements; and


                        d.  how was a record of facts and proceedings being maintained?


            13.  It is found that in the same mailgram the complainant requested the respondent provide him with copies of all policies, rules and regulations governing his questions and complaints.


Docket #FIC 88-102                           Page Three


            14.  It is found that by letter dated March 16, 1988, the respondent's chairman answered the questions in the complainant's March 10, 1988 mailgram and provided:


                        a.  a copy of the police department's contract concerning employee discipline;


                        b.  administrative procedures on disciplinary charges;


                        c.  and citizen complaint procedures.


            15.  It is found that by mailgram dated March 21, 1988, the complainant requested the first selectman's assistance in obtaining from the respondent information on the processing of his complaint.


            16.  It is found that by letter dated March 25, 1988, the first selectman explained in detail the procedures for the complainant to follow in filing his complaint and included a form to be used in reporting his complaint, as well as answers to the questions raised by the complainant in his March 10, 1988 mailgram to the respondent.


            17.  It is found that during this same time period the complainant, the respondent and the first selectman communicated by telephone and in writing on many other occasions about the matter.


            18.  It is found that it should have been abundantly clear to the respondent that, despite the complainant's confusion, he was trying to file a complaint with the respondent and follow its treatment through the review process.


            19.  It is found that it took more than a month and dozens of communications before the complainant received the form and full written instructions for filing his complaint.


            20.  It is found that the form and instructions in question are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.


            21.  It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., by not promptly providing the complainant with the form and the written procedures for filing his complaint.


Docket #FIC 88-102                           Page Four


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


            1.  The respondent henceforth shall act in strict compliance with 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.


            2.  The respondent's members shall attend an educational workshop on the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act, lead by a Commission staff attorney, no later than sixty days from the date of the mailing of the notice of final decision in this matter.


            3.  The Commission notes that the confusion that occurred in this case might have been prevented had the respondent's chairman, the first selectman and the Easton police chief made a greater effort to communicate with each other, to inform themselves of procedural requirements, and to clarify those procedures for the complainant.


            Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 22, 1989.



                                    Karen J. Haggett

                                    Clerk of the Commission