FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Kathleen Chipelo and People Against Pollution,
against Docket #FIC 88-449
Town of Thomaston Hazardous Waste Committee,
Respondent November 8, 1989
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 19, 1988, at which time the complainants 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 and conclusions of law are reached:
1. It is found that the respondent is a Local Emergency Planning Committee within the meaning of the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, Title III of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986, 100 U.S.C. §1613.
2. It is found that the respondent consists of volunteer police, fire, ambulance and civil defense officials appointed by the first selectman of the town of Thomaston.
3. It is found that the respondent is responsible to develop and annually update a comprehensive chemical emergency response plan; receive information about accidental chemical releases; and collect, manage, and provide public access to information on hazardous chemicals.
4. It is found that the respondent met over a period of approximately six months beginning in May of 1988 and formulated a chemical emergency response plan which was approved by the State of Connecticut Department of Public Safety, Office of Civil Preparedness, on November 15, 1988.
5. The respondent maintains that it is not a public agency because it is an advisory, fact-finding group with no decisional authority.
Docket #FIC 88-449 Page 2
6. Section 1-18a(a), G.S., provides in pertinent part:
"Public agency" or "agency" means ... any ... authority or official ... of any city, town, borough, [or] municipal corporation ..., including any committee of any such ... authority or official....
7. It is concluded that the respondent is a public agency within the meaning of §1-18a(a), G.S.
8. It is found that the respondent met from approximately May, 1988 through October, 1988 without posting notice of any of its meetings.
9. It is concluded that the meetings described in paragraph 8, above, were unnoticed or secret meetings within the meaning of §1-21i(b), G.S.
10. It is found that the complainants first learned of the respondent's meetings on October 19, 1988.
11. By letter of complaint dated October 28, 1988 and filed with the Commission on November 8, 1988, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent failed to post notice of any of its meetings while formulating its comprehensive chemical emergency response plan.
12. It is concluded that the complainants appealed to the Commission within 30 days of receiving notice in fact of the respondent's unnoticed or secret meetings.
13. The respondent maintains that the complaint should be dismissed because the respondent's work product constituted preliminary drafts and advice to the first selectman which was exempt from disclosure pursuant to §1-19(b)(1), G.S.
14. It is concluded, however, that §1-19(b)(1), G.S., is not a defense to the notice requirements mandated by §1-21(a), G.S.
15. The respondent also maintains that the complaint is moot because the respondent held a noticed public hearing December 1, 1988 to allow for public comment on the comprehensive chemical emergency response plan, and because there is no relief which the Commission could order which has not already been afforded by the respondent.
16. It is concluded, however, that nothing in the Freedom of Information Act permits a public agency to substitute a single public hearing for the notice and public meeting requirements applicable to all of its meetings.
Docket #FIC 88-449 Page 3
17. It is concluded, therefore, that the respondent violated §1-21(a) by failing to post notice of any of its meetings prior to the date of this complaint.
The following order of the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the entire record in the above-captioned complaint:
1. The respondent shall henceforth act in strict compliance with the notice and open meeting requirements of §1-21(a), G.S.
Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of November 8, 1989.
Tina C. Frappier
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 88-449 Page 4
PURSUANT TO SECTION 4-180(c), G.S. THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION, OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.
THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:
KATHLEEN CHIPELO AND PEOPLE AGAINST POLLUTION
P.O. Box 244
Thomaston, CT 06787
TOWN OF THOMASTON HAZARDOUS WASTE COMMITTEE
c/o Michael D. Rybak, Esquire
Guion and Stevens
P.O. Box 338
Litchfield, CT 06759
Tina C. Frappier
Acting Clerk of the Commission