FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Daniel Gerstein and The Hartford Courant,
against Docket #FIC 93-4
Canton Board of Selectmen,
Respondent July 14, 1993
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 17, 1993, at which time the complainants 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 filed with this Commission on January 5, 1993, the complainants alleged that the respondent violated the provisions of the FOI Act by failing to provide an adequate record of votes taken by the respondent via telephone poll on December 22, 1992.
3. At the outset of the hearing in this matter, the respondent made motions to dismiss the complaint on the following bases: a) the individual who signed the original complaint was not present at the hearing, b) the complaint did not identify the state of incorporation and the address or principal place of business of the Hartford Courant in accordance with 1-21j-42 of this Commission's regulations, and c) the complaint did not identify the subject matter of the meeting of the respondent in accordance with 1-21j-42(b)(3) of this Commission's regulations.
4. This Commission notes that the failure of a signatory to a complaint to personally attend the hearing into the matter does not deprive this Commission of subject matter jurisdiction.
5. This Commission similarly notes that failure of a complainant to strictly comply with the regulations of this Commission does not deprive this Commission of subject matter jurisdiction over the complaint, and in fact this Commission may
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permit deviation from those rules in accordance with 1-21j-13 of this Commission's regulations. This Commission also notes that the complaint in this matter does contain an address for the Hartford Courant.
6. Finally, this Commission notes that the identity of the subject matter of the telephone poll of the respondent is in fact at issue under the facts of this case. Furthermore, the complainants identify the substance of information sought by them from the public record at issue; i.e., the complainants seek disclosure of the substance of a vote concerning a personnel matter as referred to in its minutes of December 22, 1992.
7. The respondents motions to dismiss are accordingly denied.
8. It is found that on December 22, 1992, the respondent conducted a serial telephone poll of its members to vote on a personnel matter.
9. It is found that the vote at issue in this case concerned disciplinary action against two police officers.
10. The telephone poll identified in paragraph 8, above, constitutes a meeting of the respondent within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S.
11. It is found that the record of the respondent's vote taken on December 22, 1992, fails to identify what course of action the respondent voted to either take or refrain from taking. It also fails to identify that the vote regarded disciplinary action against two police officers.
12. It is concluded that the respondent failed adequately identify the votes made by its members on December 22, 1992 in accordance with 1-21(a), G.S., and the respondent is therefore in violation of that provision.
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 strictly comply with the provisions of 1-21(a), G.S.
2. Within one week of the mailing of the final decision in this case, the respondent shall file a copy of the final decision in this case with the Canton town clerk for public posting for a period of thirty days. The respondent shall
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also submit for such posting an amended record of votes from its meeting of December 22, 1992, which amendment shall clearly outline the specific disciplinary action its members voted on that day.
3. As an issue not directly within the scope of the complaint in this matter, this Commission can only advise the respondent to closely review the provisions of the FOI Act with respect to open meetings and the requirements thereof. This Commission especially urges the respondent to take note of the fact that the meetings of all public agencies shall be open to the public under 1-21(a), G.S., and that under the provisions of 1-18a(b), G.S., meeting includes those sessions conducted with electronic equipment. The Commission staff is available for informal consultation during regular office hours should questions concerning those or other provisions arise.
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
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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:
Daniel Gerstein and The Hartford Courant
c/o Bernard T. Davidson
The Hartford Courant
285 Broad Street
Hartford, CT 06115
Canton Board of Selectmen
Atty. Jeffrey J. Mirman
Levy & Droney, P.C.
74 Batterson Park Road
Farmington, CT 06034
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission