FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Deborah J. Petersen and The Hartford Courant,

 

Complainants

 

against Docket #FIC 89-126

 

Executive Director for Administration, West Hartford Public Schools,

 

Respondent July 26, 1989

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 3, 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. On January 9, 1989, the West Hartford Board of Education (the "Board") appointed nine community members to an Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Observances and Holidays (the "Committee").

 

2. The respondent was appointed chairman of the Committee.

 

3. None of the Committee members are members of the Board.

 

4. The Committee's operational charge states that:

 

The committee shall advise concerning those considerations the Board of Education should take into account in defining policy and the administration should take into account in establishing regulations for assuring that pupils are taught the history and cultural significance of the major holidays and the world's major religions; and that the recognition of such holidays in the classroom and in the school is educationally and legally appropriate.

 

Docket #FIC 89-126 Page 2

 

5. It is concluded that both the Committee and the respondent in his capacity as chairman of the Committee are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

6. In meeting its operational charge, the Committee gathered and reviewed pertinent information from which it intended to draft an advisory report to the Board.

 

7. It is found that, in an open meeting held prior to drafting such advisory report, the Committee conducted a "brainstorming" session, in which members of the Committee suggested policies that might be recommended in such an advisory report. As proposed policy considerations were advanced by Committee members, these proposed policies were reduced to writing and posted on the walls of the room in which the Committee met.

 

8. It is found that, following the meeting referenced in paragraph 7, above, two members of the Committee drafted reports which organized and summarized the various policies that members of the Committee had generated during that meeting.

 

9. It is found that one report was prepared by the respondent and distributed to all members of the Commitee (the "Borrelli Report").

 

10. It is found that the other report was prepared by Sheila Huddleston, a member of the Committee, and distributed to all members of the Committee (the "Huddleston Report").

 

11. It is found that both the Borrelli Report and the Huddleston Report were used by the respondent to guide the Committee in its discussion at a subsequent meeting.

 

12. It is found that a third report was drafted by the Committee based upon: the discussion referenced in paragraph 11, above; elements of the Borrelli Report, which report the Commmittee considered acceptable as to its content but not as to its outline style; and elements of the Huddleston Report, which the Committee considered preferable with respect to its narrative style.

 

13. It is found that this third report was included as an appendix to the final report which the Committee subsequently prepared for submission to the Board.

 

14. It is concluded that both the Borrelli Report and the Huddleston Report are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 89-126 Page 3

 

15. On April 6, 1989 the complainant requested of the respondent copies of the Borelli Report and the Huddleston Report, which request was denied by the respondent later that day.

 

16. By letter of complaint dated April 6, 1989 and received by the Commission on April 12, 1989, the complainant appealed the respondent's denial of her request.

 

17. At the hearing, the respondent maintained that the Borrelli Report and Huddleston Report are exempt from disclosure under 1-19(c)(1), G.S., which provides:

 

Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision (1) of subsection (b) of this section [1-19], disclosure shall be required of (1) interagency or intra-agency memoranda or letters, advisory opinions, recommendations or any report comprising part of the process by which governmental decisions and policies are formulated, except disclosure shall not be required of a preliminary draft of a memorandum, prepared by a member of the staff of a public agency, which is subject to revision prior to submission to or discussion among the members of such agency ....

 

18. It is found that the two members of the Commmittee who prepared the two reports are not members of the staff of the Board within the meaning of 1-19(c)(1), G.S.

 

19. It is also found that the respondent failed to prove that either of the two reports is a preliminary draft of a memorandum within the meaning of 1-19(c)(1), G.S.

 

20. It is also found that the Borrelli Report and the Huddleston Report are reports comprising part of the process by which governmental decisions and policies are formulated, within the meaning of 1-19(c)(1), G.S.

 

21. It is concluded, therefore, that 1-19(c)(1), G.S., requires rather than exempts the disclosure of the Borrelli Report and the Huddleston Report.

 

22. At the hearing, the respondent also maintained that the Borrelli Report and the Huddleston Report are exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(1), G.S.

 

23. It is concluded, however, given the express prefatory language of 1-19(c)(1), G.S., that it is not necessary to decide whether the two reports would otherwise be exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(1), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 89-126 Page 4

 

24. It is concluded therefore that the respondent violated 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to provide to the complainant copies of the two reports which are subject to mandatory disclosure under 1-19(c)(1), G.S.

 

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

 

1. The respondent shall forthwith provide the complainant with copies of the Borrelli Report and the Huddleston Report.

 

2. The respondent shall henceforth act in strict compliance with the requirements of 1-19(c), G.S.

 

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:

DEBORAH J. PETERSEN

The Hartford Courant

56 East Main Street

Avon, CT 06001

 

MARK K. OSTROWSKI, ESQ.

Shipman & Goodwin

799 Main Street

Hartford, CT 06103

 

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

 

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission