FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
John L. Carusone,
against Docket #FIC 92-271 and Docket #FIC 92-286
Hamden Board of Ethics,
Respondent July 14, 1993
The above-captioned matters were consolidated and heard as contested cases on March 12, 1993, at which times the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. The above-captioned matters were also consolidated with Docket #FIC 92-250, Louis Affinito against Hamden Board of Ethics, and Docket #FIC 92-286, Louis Affinito against Hamden Board of Ethics.
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 filed August 24, 1992 and assigned Docket #FIC 92-271, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging certain improprieties at the respondent's August 4, 1992 meeting to discuss an ethics complaint, and at certain hearings of the respondent.
3. It is found that the respondent held a regular meeting on August 4, 1992.
4. It is found that the respondent convened in executive session "to discuss matters of [ethics] complaint 90-3 not open to the public."
5. It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-21(a), G.S., by failing to state a purpose permitted by 1-18(a), G.S.
6. It is found that the actual purpose for convening in executive session was to discuss commencing an action in Superior Court to quash a subpoena issued to a member of the respondent.
7. It is concluded that the respondent permissibly convened in executive session to discuss strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims or litigation.
Docket #FIC 92-271 & Docket #FIC 92-286 Page 2
8. By letter of complaint filed September 17, 1992 and assigned Docket #FIC 92-286, the complainant again appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent did not respond to his August 21, 1992 request for certain documents.
9. It is found that the complainant, beginning on February 7, 1992, requested copies of documents connected with an ethics complaint filed against him, known as complaint #90-3.
10. It is found that certain documents were provided to the complainant on or about July 30, 1992.
11. It is found that among the documents provided on July 30, 1992 was a document captioned "Attachments," which listed and briefly described 40 documents connected with the ethics complaint #90-3.
12. It is found that by letter dated August 21, 1992, the complainant requested copies of the documents listed on the "Attachments" list that had not been transmitted to him on July 30, as well a copy of the original complaint submitted against him.
13. It is found that the respondent did not provide the complainant with copies of the requested documents.
14. After the hearing, the respondent provided the Commission, for in camera inspection, copies of all of the documents that the respondent and its investigator had in their possession related to the respondent's case #90-3.
15. It is found that the documents, numbered by the Commission as in camera documents 92-250-1 through 92-250-129 are a collection of memoranda, letters, newspaper articles, budget documents and other financial records, and minutes and other records of meetings.
16. It is found that the bulk of the documents not provided to the complainant consist of memoranda and letters between members of the Hamden town council and the town administration, regarding a dispute about the transfer of monies and personnel between town agencies, and records of meetings at which that issue was discussed.
17. It is found that the documents referenced in paragraphs 14 and 15, above, are records of the respondent's investigation of the complainant.
18. It is concluded that the documents referenced in paragraphs 14 and 15, above, are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.
Docket #FIC 92-271 & Docket #FIC 92-286 Page 3
19. The complainant maintains that the records referenced in paragraphs 14 and 15, above, are required to be disclosed pursuant to 1-82a(e), G.S.
20. Section 1-82a(e), G.S., provides
The [state ethics] commission shall make public a finding of probable cause not later than five business days after the termination of the investigation. At such time the entire record of the investigation shall become public, except that the commission may postpone examination or release of such public records for a period not to exceed fourteen days for the purpose of reaching a stipulation agreement pursuant to subsection (c) of section 4-177. [Emphasis added.]
21. Section 7-148h, G.S., provides that the provisions of 1-82a(e) shall apply to the investigation and finding of probable cause by any municipal agency created to investigate allegations of unethical conduct.
22. It is found that the respondent is a municipal agency created to investigate allegations of unethical conduct, within the meaning of 7-148h, G.S.
23. It is found the respondent made a finding of probable cause against the complainant on or about June 10, 1992.
24. The respondent maintains that 1-82a(e), G.S., requires disclosure of only the record of the proceeding of the tribunal that made the probable cause determination, not the entire record of the investigation.
25. It is concluded, however, that the respondent's interpretation of 1-82a(e), G.S., is contrary to the statute's clear and unambiguous meaning.
26. It is therefore concluded that the respondent violated 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to provide to the complainant all the records referenced in paragraphs 14 and 15, above.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaints:
1. Henceforth the respondent shall strictly comply with the requirements of 1-21(a), G.S., regarding the stating of a purpose permitted by 1-18a(e), G.S., when convening in executive session.
Docket #FIC 92-271 & Docket #FIC 92-286 Page 4
2. Within one week of the issuance of the final decision in this matter, the respondent shall provide to the complainant, at no cost, copies of all the documents referenced in paragraphs 14 and 15 of the findings, above, that were not provided on July 30, 1992; which documents are numbered 2, 5, 12, 14, and 20 through 40 on the "Attachments" list referenced in paragraphs 11 and 12 of the findings, above.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of July 14, 1993.
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 92-271 & Docket #FIC 92-286 Page 5
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:
John L. Carusone
c/o Atty. Christopher L. Brigham
Updike, Kelly & Spellacy
One Century Tower
265 Church Street
New Haven, CT 06510-7002
Hamden Board of Ethics
Atty. Alan J. Tyma
Ryan, Tyma & Sousa
231 Coram Avenue
P.O. Box 648
Shelton, CT 06484
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission