FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Donald H. Schiller, Gary Gentile and Record-Journal Publishing Co.,
against Docket #FIC 92-332
Southington Ambulance Review Committee,
Respondent July 28, 1993
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 13, 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 of complaint filed October 21, 1992, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that with respect to the respondent's September 24, 1992 meeting:
a. the notice of the meeting did not specify the purpose or agenda of the meeting;
b. the respondent convened in executive session for an improper purpose;
c. the respondent failed to state the reason for convening in executive session; and
d. the respondent failed to file minutes of the meeting with the town clerk.
3. It is found that the respondent held a special meeting on September 24, 1992.
4. It is found that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the details of an emergency medical call answered by Medstar Ambulance Inc., a private company under contract with the town of Southington.
5. It is found that the notice of the September 24, 1992 meeting did not describe the business to be transacted at the meeting.
Docket #FIC 92-332 Page 2
6. It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-21(a), G.S., by failing to include in its special meeting notice a description of the business to be transacted at the meeting.
7. It is also found that the respondent failed to file minutes of the September 24 meeting with the town clerk within seven days after the meeting, although the minutes had been prepared immediately after the meeting and were available from the office of the Director of Health, who is also the chairman of the respondent.
8. It is found that the minutes of the September 24 meeting are public records or files within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.
9. It is found that the respondent has no office or regular place of business.
10. Section 1-19(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that each public agency:
shall keep and maintain all public records in its custody at its regular office or place of business in an accessible place and, if there is no such office or place of business, the public records pertaining to such agency shall be kept in the office of the clerk of the political subdivision in which such public agency is located ....
11. It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to maintain its minutes with the town clerk.
12. It is found that the respondent during the open portion of the September 24 meeting, discussed with its counsel several possible reasons to convene in executive session, including discussion of medical records, discussion of the performance of a public employee, and discussion of the performance of private employees of the ambulance service performing a public function for the town.
13. It is found that the respondent convened in executive session without stating in the motion to convene the actual purposes for excluding the public.
14. Section 1-21(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:
A public agency may hold an executive session ... upon an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of such body present and voting, taken at a public meeting and stating the reasons for such executive session, as defined in said section.
Docket #FIC 92-332 Page 3
15. It is found that while the respondent's reasons to convene in executive session may have been inferable from the discussion that preceded the vote, it is not clear that all of those reasons were voted upon or were the basis for the respondent's decision to exclude the public.
16. It is therefore concluded that the respondent technically violated 1-21(a) by not stating the reasons for its executive session in its vote to so convene.
17. It is found that while in executive session the respondent discussed in exhaustive detail the sequence of events that occured when the patient was treated before and after the Medstar ambulance and personnel arrived.
18. In particular, it is found that the respondent discussed the treatment the patient received, whom he received it from, how much time transpired between events, whether certain equipment was used or should have been used, and the performance of a Southington police officer and Medstar employees in treating the patient.
19. It is found under the facts of this case that the discussion in executive session focused on the type and timeliness of the care that the patient received.
20. It is found that discussion of the type and timeliness of the care that the patient received in public session would in this case have resulted in the disclosure of medical files within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
21. The complainants maintain that disclosure of the patient's medical file information would not constitute an invasion of personal privacy, because the patient died and his privacy rights died with him.
22. It is concluded, however, that the family of the deceased patient had a reasonable expectation that the patient's medical files would not be publicly discussed while the family was still grieving the death.
23. It is therefore concluded that the respondent permissibly convened in executive session pursuant to 1-18a(e)(5), G.S., which provides in relevant part that an agency may convene in executive session for "discussion of any matter which would result in the disclosure of public records or the information contained therein described in subsection (b) of section 1-19."
24. In their complaint to the Commission, the complainants requested the imposition of civil penalties against the respondent.
Docket #FIC 92-332 Page 4
25. It is found that the respondent's violations of the FOI Act regarding the notice and minutes of its meeting were inadvertent, and that the minutes of the meeting, although not filed with the town clerk, were available from the office of the Director of Health (who is also chairman of the respondent), within seven days of the meeting.
26. The Commission in its discretion therefore declines to impose a civil penalty against the respondent.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. Henceforth the respondent shall strictly comply with the requirements of 1-21(a) concerning notices of special meetings, and concerning the procedure for convening in executive session, and with 1-19(a) concerning the maintenance of public records with town clerk.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of July 28, 1993.
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 92-332 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:
Donald H. Schiller, Gary Gentile and Record-Journal Publishing Co.
c/o Atty. Ethel S. Sorokin
Sorokin, Sorokin, Gross, Hyde & Williams P.C.
One Corporate Center
Hartford, CT 06103-3291
Southington Ambulance Review Committee
c/o Atty. Robert A. Izzo
Elliot, Stanek, Izzo & Mazzaccaro
98 Main Street
P. O. Box 578
Southington, CT 06489
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission