FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Robert H. Boone and Journal Inquirer,
against Docket #FIC 92-10
Chief, Broad Brook Volunteer Fire Department and Broad Brook Volunteer Fire Department,
Respondents May 27, 1992
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on January 29, 1992, at which time the complainants and the respondents 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. By letter of complaint dated and filed January 8, 1992, the complainants appealed to the Commission alleging that a Journal Inquirer reporter (hereinafter "reporter") was denied access to a January 7, 1992 meeting of the respondent fire department's (hereinafter "department") Board of Directors.
3. It is found that there was a meeting of the department's Board of Directors on January 7, 1992 (hereinafter "January meeting").
4. It is found that the reporter was prevented from attending the January meeting because the door to the firehouse, where the meeting was being held, was locked.
5. It is found that only members of the department entered the building to attend the meeting, either by use of a key or by entering an access code to open the door.
6. The respondents maintain that the department is a private corporation and that as such, it is not subject to the requirements of the Freedom of Information (hereinafter "FOI") Act.
Docket #FIC 92-10 Page 2
7. The respondents further maintain that the January meeting was an "operational" meeting that was not subject to the open meetings provisions of the FOI Act, pursuant to 7-314(b), G.S.
8. The Commission takes administrative notice of its decision in contested case docket #FIC 83-173, in which the Commission concluded that the department is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.
9. It is found that the only change in the composition of the department since the final decision in docket #FIC 83-173 is that the department currently receives seventy-five percent of its budget from town funds, rather than the ninety percent it received in 1983.
10. It is therefore concluded that the department and its Chief continue to be public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S., and are therefore subject to the requirements of the FOI Act.
11. Section 7-314(b), G.S., provides: "Any operational meeting of active members of a volunteer fire department shall not be subject to the provisions of of 1-15, 1-18a, 1-19 to 1-19b, inclusive, and 1-21 to 1-21k, inclusive," G.S.
12. The respondent chief maintains that all of the department's meetings, including regular meetings, Board of Directors meetings and "line officers" meetings are operational, and that members of the public are therefore excluded from all department meetings.
13. It is found that the department's Board of Directors is responsible for overseeing the various operations of the department, setting departmental policies and imposing disciplinary action against members of the department.
14. It is found that a portion of the January meeting concerned whether to take disciplinary action against one of the members of the department who was involved in a collision incident. The member who was discussed at the January meeting was a passsenger in a department fire truck, that was driven by another member of the department and which struck a police cruiser while on route to a Christmas party at the firehouse.
15. It is found that there were additional matters discussed during the January meeting, including a report from the department's vice president, consideration of the treasurer's report and reports from department captains concerning different operations of the department.
Docket #FIC 92-10 Page 3
16. It is found that the department member who was discussed at the January meeting was temporarily suspended during the meeting and was permanently suspended at a subsequent meeting.
17. It is found that the portions of the January meeting concerning the captains' reports on various operations of the department were operational within the meaning of 7-314(b), G.S.
18. It is found however that the remaining portions of the January meeting, including the portion concerning possible disciplinary action against one of the department's members, was not operational within the meaning of 7-314(b), G.S.
20. It is therefore concluded that the respondents violated the provisions of 1-21a, G.S., when they denied the reporter access to the non-operational portions of the January meeting.
The following order of the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. Henceforth the respondents shall strictly comply with the requirements of 1-21a, G.S., and shall allow the public to attend those portions of the department's meetings which are not subject to the provisions of 7-314(b), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 27, 1992.
Clerk of the Commission
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:
Mr. Robert H. Boone
306 Progress Drive
Manchester, CT 06040
Chief Eilliam Loos, Jr.
Broad Brook Bolunteer Fire Department
44 Melrose Road
Broad Brook, CT 06016
Clerk of the Commission