FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Karen Avitabile and The Middletown Press,

 

Complainants

 

against Docket #FIC 89-3

 

Durham Board of Selectmen,

 

Respondent July 26, 1989

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 15, 1989, 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. The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. By letter of complaint dated December 31, 1988 and received by the Commission on January 4, 1989, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that:

 

a. the respondent had failed to provide notice of its December 6, 1988 special meeting 24 hours prior to that meeting;

 

b. the minutes of the respondent's December 8, 1988 meeting were not available within seven days of that meeting; and

 

c. the minutes of the respondent's December 15, 1988 meeting were not available within seven days of that meeting.

 

3. It is found that on December 5, 1988 the Durham First Selectman telephoned the other members of the respondent to schedule a special meeting for the purpose of viewing trees in the town prior to the respondent's December 8, 1988 meeting.

 

4. It is found that the first selectman determined that 10:00 a.m. on December 6, 1988 was the only time the other members of the respondent could attend.

 

Docket #FIC 89-3 Page 2

 

5. It is found that the respondent's notice of its 10:00 a.m. December 6, 1988 meeting was received by the Durham Town Clerk at 12:50 p.m. on December 5, 1988.

 

6. It is found that the respondent held the special meeting on December 6, 1988 at 10:00 a.m.

 

7. It is found that the notice of that meeting was posted less than 24 hours before the meeting.

 

8. It is found that the December 6, 1988 meeting was not an emergency meeting within the meaning of 1-21(a), G.S.

 

9. It is concluded that the respondent technically violated 1-21(a), G.S., by failing to file notice of its December 6, 1988 meeting not less than 24 hours prior to the time of that meeting.

 

10. It is found that the respondent held regular meetings on December 8, 1988 and December 15, 1988.

 

11. It is found that typed minutes of the December 8 and December 15, 1988 meetings were received by the Durham Town Clerk on January 30, 1989.

 

12. It is also found that notes of those meetings, taken in a combination of longhand and shorthand, were during regular office hours available in the office of the first selectman immediately following those meetings.

 

13. It is found that the circumstances of the holiday season may have delayed the respondent's ability to have the notes of the two meetings typed for submission to the Town Clerk.

 

14. It is concluded that nothing in the Freedom of Information Act requires minutes of meetings to be typed.

 

15. It is found, however, that the notes described in paragraph 12, above, are only partly decipherable by persons who do not read shorthand.

 

16. It is therefore concluded that the notes described in paragraph 12, above, do not constitute minutes available for public inspection within the meaning of 1-21(a), G.S.

 

17. It is concluded that the respondent technically violated 1-21(a), G.S., by failing to make minutes of its December 8 and December 15, 1988 meetings available for public inspection within seven days of those meetings.

 

Docket #FIC 89-3 Page 3

 

18. The Commission commends the first selectman for her able defense, without the assistance of counsel, of the claims against the respondent.

 

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 comply with the requirements of 1-21(a), G.S.

 

2. Both the respondent and the complainants are once again urged to regard their interactions over the Freedom of Information Act as a learning process. The first selectman who appeared at the hearing showed patience and a conciliatory attitude regarding the complainants' efforts to obtain strict compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. The Commission hopes that the same qualities will prevail in the relationships of the parties with each other in the future.

 

PURSUANT TO 4-180(c) C.G.S. THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE F.O.I.C., OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.

 

THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:

KAREN AVITABILE

The Middletown Press, 20 Maplewood Road

Southingotn, CT 06489

 

MARYANN P. BOORD

Durham First Selectman, P. O. Box 428

Durham, CT 06422-0428

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of July 26, 1989.

 

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission