FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Richard A. Backer,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 91-42

 

Monroe Planning and Zoning Commission,

 

Respondent October 23, 1991

 

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 6, 1991, at which time the complainant 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 February 14, 1991 and filed February 19, 1991, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent held an improper special meeting on January 20, 1991.

 

3. More specifically, the complainant alleged:

 

a. that the respondent convened its January 20,

1991 special meeting at a location different from

that set forth in the notice of special meeting;

 

b. that the minutes of the respondent's January

20, 1991 meeting fail to accurately identify who

was present at the meeting;

 

c. that the minutes of the respondent's January

20, 1991 meeting do not accurately state the

location where the meeting was convened; and

 

Docket #FIC 91-42 Page 2

 

d. that the respondent imposed impermissible

restrictions on photographing during its

January 20, 1991 meeting in violation of the

Freedom of Information Act.

 

4. With respect to the allegations described in paragraphs 3b. and 3c., above, the complainant withdrew his allegations based upon review of the revised version of the minutes of the respondent's January 20, 1991 meeting which accurately identify who was present.

 

5. It is found that the respondent held a special meeting on January 20, 1991 for the purpose of a field review of certain premises located at 201 Turkey Roost Road, which premises were the subject of an application pending before the respondent.

 

6. It is found that the agenda for the respondent's January 20, 1991 special meeting indicated that the meeting would convene at 12:00 noon in the access driveway of the premises, directly across from 142 Turkey Roost Road and would continue as a walking/driving tour of the property.

 

7. It is found that the complainant arrived with his attorney at 142 Turkey Roost Road on January 20, 1991 at approximately 12:03 p.m. and found only the Planning and Zoning Administrator waiting in his car at that location.

 

8. It is also found that the Planning and Zoning Administrator indicated to the complainant that he was not sure where the other Commission members were.

 

9. It is found that the complainant eventually drove North on Turkey Roost Road to the other access to the property which was located at 201 Turkey Roost Road, where the complainant saw two of the respondent commission members' cars, and upon viewing them, got out of his car to join the assembled group.

 

10. The respondent maintains that the meeting was convened at 142 Turkey Roost Road at approximately 12:00 noon and that at the beckoning of the Chairman, the respondent commission members moved toward 201 Turkey Roost Road where the complainant ultimately joined the meeting.

 

11. It is found that with respect to the allegation described in paragraph 3a., above, the complainant failed to prove that the respondent did not convene its meeting at the stated time and place posted on the agenda for the special meeting, and therefore it is concluded that the respondent

 

Docket #FIC 91-42 Page 3

 

did not violate the Freedom of Information Act with respect to this allegation.

 

12. It is found that the owner of the property stopped the complainant and his attorney when they arrived at 201 Turkey Roost Road and asked them to sign a liability waiver which also included an agreement not to take video or still photos of the site. The complainant's attorney signed the waiver but added at the bottom of the waiver that he was objecting to the portion disallowing photographing of the site.

 

13. Section 1-21a, G.S., provides that at any public meeting, the proceedings of such public agency may be recorded, photographed, broadcast or recorded for broadcast, subject to such rules as the public agency may have prescribed prior to such meeting.

 

14. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 3d., above, it is found that the restrictions on phototaking of the site were not imposed by the respondent or at the direction of the respondent but were imposed by the owners of the private property.

 

15. It is also found that 1-21a, G.S., provides the public with the right to photograph or tape record agency proceedings, that is the meeting itself. There is nothing in the Freedom of Information Act which gives the public the right to photograph or video tape private property on which a public meeting is held.

 

16. It is concluded therefore that the respondent did not violate 1-21a, G.S., when the site owner requested that the complainant agree to refrain from photographing the site on which the respondent's January 20, 1991 special meeting was held.

 

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

 

1. The complaint is hereby dismissed.

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of October 23, 1991.

 

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission

 

Docket #FIC 91-42 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:

Richard A. Backer

c/o Edward Pearson, Esq.

Chambliss & Pearson

158 Danbury Road

Ridgefield, CT 06877

 

Monroe Planning & Zoning Commission

c/o Edward P. McCreery, Esq.

Pullman & Comley

850 Main Street

Bridgeport, CT 06601-7006

 

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission