FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Eleanor de Aguirre,
against Docket #FIC 91-243
Gales Ferry Community Center Association, Inc.,
Respondent July 8, 1992
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 6, 1991, at which time the complainant appeared but the respondent failed to appear. At the hearing on this matter, the complainant 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 dated June 26, 1991 (hereinafter "June letter"), the complainant requested from the respondent a copy of a certain letter of agreement between the Gales Ferry Fire District (hereinafter "GFFD") and the respondent. The complainant requested additional documents in connection with the respondent's purchase of doors, namely a copy of a bank statement reflecting a donation deposit for the purchase of the doors and a copy of a purchase order and bill from the company from which the respondent purchased the doors.
2. By letter dated July 11, 1991 and filed July 15, 1991, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent failed to comply with the provisions of the Freedom of Information (hereinafter "FOI") Act and requesting a determination whether the respondent is a public agency as defined by the FOI Act.
3. It is found that the respondent did not provide the complainant with the records requested in the June letter.
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4. The complainant maintains that the respondent is a public agency mainly due to its intertwining relationship with the GFFD, a public agency under the FOI Act, and that because of said relationship, the respondent is likewise a public agency.
5. It is concluded that the test for determining whether an entity such as the respondent is a public agency for purposes of the the FOI Act is one of functional equivalence, as outlined by the Supreme Court in Board of Trustees of Woodstock Academy, et al. v. Freedom of Information Commission, et al., 181 Conn. 544 (1980), and that the court has concluded that the criteria to be utilized in determining whether an institution is the functional equivalent of a public agency are (1) whether the entity performs a governmental function; (2) the level of governmental funding; (3) the extent of government involvement or regulation; and (4) whether the entity was created by government.
6. It is found that pursuant to its by-laws, the respondent's purposes are to promote and assist in providing recreational, educational, social, civic, spiritual, and other constructive activities for the people of the town of Ledyard (hereinafter "town").
7. It is found that the respondent carries out the functions described in paragraph 6, above, through organizing and sponsoring activities such as: tours and trips to various locations, aerobics and karate programs that are offered at the Gales Ferry Community Center Building (hereinafter "Community Center"), local art auctions and nursery and summer school programs.
8. The complainant maintains that since the respondent organizes activities that are similar to activities often arranged by local parks and recreation departments, it therefore performs a governmental function.
9. It is found that the complainant did not offer evidence to indicate that the town is in any way required, by either federal law or state statute, to perform the functions performed by the respondent, as described in paragraph 6, above.
10. The Commission is not convinced by the evidence presented at the hearing on this matter, that the types of social and recreational activities organized by the respondent are activities that are ordinarily provided by the government.
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11. It is therefore concluded that the respondent does not perform a governmental function.
12. It is found that the GFFD owns the Community Center where many of the activities arranged by the respondent are held and where the respondent convenes its meetings.
13. It is found that the respondent uses the Community Center and contracts with other users of the Community Center facilities, in accordance with a letter of agreement between the GFFD and the respondent and that said letter of agreement sets forth conditions upon the respondent's usage of the Community Center.
14. It is found that the conditions contained in the letter of agreement primarily place limits on the types of activities that can be held at the GFFD-owned Community Center and also provide that the the GFFD has priority usage of the Community Center.
15. It is also found that the respondent has its own Board of Directors, which is independent of the GFFD's Board of Directors, and that the respondent's Board of Directors makes decisions regarding the respondent's organizational planning, activities and expenditures.
16. It is also found that the respondent's Board of Directors is elected annually by its membership and that the membership in the respondent is available to all residents of the town.
16. It is found that none of the members of the respondent's Board of Directors are appointed by the GFFD or by any other governmental entity.
17. It is concluded that although the respondent is regulated to a degree by the GFFD through its imposition of conditions set forth in the letter of agreement, described in paragraphs 13 and 14, above, the respondent is not otherwise subject to governmental involvement or regulation in the conduct of its operations.
18. It is found that the respondent is a non-profit corporation incorporated in the State of Connecticut.
19. It is found that although the impetus for the respondent's creation was a decision in 1964 by the Community Center Association Committee of the GFFD to organize a "planned
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activities group" to manage usage of the Community Center, it was not created as a committee of the GFFD.
20. It is also found that the members of the respondent's Board of Directors are not all members of the GFFD Board of Directors.
21. It is concluded, based upon the evidence presented at the hearing on this matter, that the respondent was not specifically created by government.
22. It is found that the GFFD allows the respondent use of its Community Center to hold its meetings and for the recreational activities it organizes at no cost to the respondent and that the GFFD pays for the maintenance of the Community Center.
23. It is also found that the respondent annually receives a small monetary donation from the GFFD and that the amount allotted to the respondent by the GFFD for the 1991-1992 fiscal year amounted to five-hundred dollars.
24. It is also found however, that the complainant failed to introduce evidence indicating what percentage of the respondent's budget the five-hundred dollar donation from the GFFD represents.
25. It is also found that the complainant did not introduce evidence indicating that the respondent receives any funding from the town.
26. It is also found that the remaining funding for the respondent derives from private donations and from fees collected from persons who partake in the activities organized by the respondent.
27. It is concluded based upon the testimony and other evidence offered at the hearing on this matter that although the respondent receives some funding from the GFFD and is allowed use of the Community Center without cost, it is not substantially funded by public sources.
28. It is concluded therefore based upon the totality of factors described in paragraph 5, above, and upon the evidence offered at the hearing on this matter that there is insufficient evidence to conclude that the respondent is the functional equivalent of a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.
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29. Consequently, it is concluded that the respondent was not required, pursuant to the provisions of the FOI Act, to provide the complainant with the records requested in the June letter.
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.
2. Although the Commission is compelled based upon the facts of this case to dismiss the complaint, it encourages the respondent, in the spirit of openness that is embodied in the FOI Act, to make its records and proceedings accessible to the public.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of July 8, 1992.
Clerk of the Commission
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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:
Ms. Eleanor de Auguirre
1085 Long Cove Road
Gales Ferry, CT 06335
Gales Ferry Community Center Association, Inc.
c/o Barbara Schaafsma, Pres.
Gales Ferry, CT 06335
Clerk of the Commission