FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Bob Tedeschi, William Condy and The Hour,
against Docket #FIC 89-88
Board of Trustees, Maritime Center at Norwalk, Inc.,
Respondent January 24, 1990
The above-captioned matter was scheduled for hearing July 21, 1989, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared 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. By letter of complaint filed March 10, 1989, the complainants alleged that the respondent failed to comply with the open meetings requirements of 1-21, G.S., when it denied complainant Tedeschi access to the meeting of the respondent on February 14, 1989.
2. The respondent claimed it is not a public agency and not subject to the open meetings requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.
3. It is found that the respondent is the board of directors for the Maritime Center, Inc. (TMC, hereinafter), a non-profit organization created to build a maritime center to promote understanding of maritime resources, and to raise money to support the center and its programs.
4. It is found that the concept of the maritime center, which TMC implemented and developed, was the result of a combined effort of private and public entities.
5. It is found that the concept of the maritime center was promoted by the Norwalk Seaport Association, the Oceanic Society, and the Junior League.
6. It is found that a proposal for a maritime center was included in a study prepared by Notter and Feingold for the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, and that in 1979-1980 the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency paid approximately one hundred thousand dollars for a feasibility study for the maritime center.
Docket #FIC 89-88 page two
7. It is found that TMC was created in 1982 by a seed money campaign and that it used the $730,000 which had been raised for environmental and other preliminary studies for the maritime center.
8. It is found that the Norwalk Maritime Center Authority (MCA, hereinafter) was created in 1985 by the adoption of ordinances, 70-1 to 70-8, by the Norwalk Common Council.
9. It is found that the ordinances creating the authority were adopted pursuant to 7-130a to 7-130x, G.S., which pertain to public recreational facilities authorities.
10. It is found that among other things 7-130a to 7-130x empower the MCA to issue bonds and to lease or operate projects such as museums, aquariums, maritime arts and trades demonstration facilities and other public or related commercial, recreational and educational facilities.
11. It is found that in 1986 the MCA issued 30 million in bonds guaranteed by the city of Norwalk for the development and operation of a maritime center by TMC.
12. It is found that governmental and community leaders in Norwalk intended the maritime center to become an "image changer" -- a facility which would attract people, create incentives for private building, and create an economic base.
13. It is found that pursuant to a sublease with MCA, TMC was authorized to develop and operate the maritime center.
14. Pursuant to its sublease TMC agreed to pay certain gross operating revenues to a trustee to be credited to the MCA. During the term that the bonds are outstanding such revenues are to be applied to the payment of the Maritime Center Project Bonds and the expenses of the MCA, and certain other sums of any remaining gross operating revenue are to be paid to TMC for its expenses.
15. It is found that pursuant to its sublease TMC has agreed to submit quarterly and annual reports to the MCA, and to make its financial accounts and books available to the MCA for review and audit.
16. It is found that pursuant to the lease the MCA has veto power with respect to the top level management of TMC.
17. It is found that the State of Connecticut Department of Economic Development provided TMC with a four million dollar grant.
Docket #FIC 89-88 page three
18. It is found that pursuant to its lease TMC pays no taxes until the bonds are retired.
19. It is found that under the lease with MCA, TMC is required to pay for services received by it from the city.
20. It is found that due to low attendance TMC has been unable to pay its expenses.
21. It is found that TMC met some of its expenses by entering into an agreement with the redevelopment agency whereby money from the bond issue (1.25 million dollars) that had been transferred to the redevelopment agency for parking facilities for TMC, and interest from a cushion account maintained by the city for debt-service insurance, was transferred to TMC.
22. It is found that although this transfer of funds was not structured as a loan, it was not a direct grant either, and TMC appears to have responsibility to repay the money to the city.
23. It is found that TMC paid the Zoological Society of Philadelphia (hereinafter, ZSP) to act as its consultant to determine how to cut costs and increase income.
24. It is found that ZSP helped TMC prepare a new reduced budget, and that the budget was reviewed by Jack Miller, the city finance director, and was adopted by the TMC trustees and the MCA.
25. It is found that the city provided TMC with a grant of $300,000 for the publicity campaign developed under the advice of the ZSP and intended to expand attendance at the maritime center.
26. It is found that while TMC was not created by government, it could not have been created without governmental support.
27. It is found, because TMC has received nearly two million dollars in financial aid from Norwalk, at least four million dollars from the state of Connecticut, and because it was developed with 30 million dollars of bonds guaranteed by the City of Norwalk, that TMC is funded by government.
28. It is found, based upon the relationship between MCA and TMC as defined in the lease, and because the involvement of the city with the financial problems of TMC is substantial, that TMC is both involved with and regulated by government.
Docket #FIC 89-88 page four
29. It is found based upon the legislative intent of 7-130, et seq., the intent of the Norwalk City Council evidenced by its creation of MCA pursuant to 7-130 et seq., the involvement of governmental officials in planning for the maritime center, and the financial support provided by the City of Norwalk that TMC performs a governmental function as a public recreational facility.
30. It is concluded that TMC is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.
31. It is concluded, therefore, that the meetings of the respondent are meetings of a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(b) and 1-21, G.S.
31. It is concluded that the respondent violated the open meetings provisions when it excluded the complainant Tedeschi from its meetings on February 14, 1989.
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 open meetings requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.
Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of January 24, 1990.
Tina C. Frappier
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 89-88 page five
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:
BOB TEDESCHI, WILLIAM CONDY AND THE HOUR
c/o John P. Reilly
346 Main Avenue
P.O. Box 790
Norwalk, CT 06852
BOARD OF TRUSTEES, MARITIME CENTER AT NORWALK, INC.
c/o Michael Lyons, Esq.
Lyons & Ryan
71 East Avenue
P.O. Box 1085
Norwalk, CT 06856
Tina C. Frappier
Acting Clerk of the Commission