FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
against Docket #FIC 93-44
Scotland Planning and Zoning Commission,
Respondent August 25, 1993
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 17, 1993, at which time the complainant 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 February 18, 1993, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent had violated certain records and meetings provisions of the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act.
3. At the hearing, the complainant limited his complaint to the following allegations:
a. that the respondent has allowed new business to be put on the agenda of its meetings without a two-thirds vote;
b. that the respondent has limited public access to its records to 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday evenings;
c. that records of the respondent's votes are not available within 48 hours of the meetings at which taken;
d. that copies of the respondent's agendas are not available at the respondent's meetings and public hearings; and
e. that the respondent failed to provide copies of documents in response to his January 27, 1993 written request.
Docket #FIC 93-44 Page 2
4. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 3.a, above, it is found that the respondent at its November 16, 1992 regular meeting took up as new business a newly filed subdivision application and scheduled a public hearing for December 21, 1992.
5. It is found that the November 16, 1992 meeting was not secret or unnoticed.
6. It is also found that the complainant knew that no specific vote had been taken to add the subdivision application to the November 16, 1992 meeting agenda sometime in December 1992.
7. The complainant maintains that, since the subdivision application was not finally acted upon until a subsequent meeting that took place within thirty days before the filing of this complaint, the Commission may in effect extend its jurisdiction back in time from that most recent meeting to the November 16, 1992 meeting.
8. It is found, however, that the complainant has not alleged that he was denied any right under the FOI Act at the most recent meeting of the respondent.
9. It is therefore concluded that the Commission lacks jurisdiction to consider the allegation described in paragraph 3.a, above, pursuant to 1-21i(b), G.S., which provides that a complaint must be filed within thirty days after the denial of any right under the FOI Act, or within thirty days after the complainant receives notice in fact of a secret or unnoticed meeting.
10. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 3.b, above, it is found that the respondent's records, which are stored unlocked in the respondent's offices, are accessible to the town clerk, whose office hours are 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; and 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m on Wednesday.
11. It is concluded that the respondent may make its records available through the town clerk.
12. It is also concluded that if the respondent chooses to make its records available in this way, it is the respondent's responsibility to assure that the town clerk is responsive to requests for the respondent's records.
13. The complainant maintains that the town clerk is unwilling to fulfill requests for the respondent's records.
14. It is found, however, that the complainant is unable to establish that he was denied access to the respondent's records through the town clerk within thirty days before the filing of this complaint.
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15. It is therefore concluded that the Commission lacks jurisdiction to consider the allegations described in paragraphs 3b and 13, above, pursuant to 1-21i(b), G.S.
16. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 3.c, above, it is found that the record of votes taken at the respondent's Monday January 26, 1993 meeting was not available until Friday, January 31, 1993.
17. Although the complainant made similar claims about the respondent's December 21, 1992 and November 11, 1992 meetings, which claims the respondent admits, it is concluded that the Commission lacks jurisdiction to consider the allegations concerning those meetings, pursuant to 1-21i(b), G.S.
18. It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-21(a), G.S., by failing to make available for public inspection the record of votes taken at the January 26, 1993 meeting within 48 hours of that meeting.
19. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 3.d, above, it is found that agendas of the respondent's meetings are available from the town clerk before the meeting.
20. Although the Commission believes it is good public policy to make agendas of meetings available at the meetings themselves, and encourages the respondent to do so, it is concluded that the complainant has failed to allege a violation of the FOI Act in paragraph 3.d, above.
21. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 3.e, above, it is found that the complainant made a written request for copies of some 25 documents concerning the subdivision application referenced in paragraph 4, above, by letter dated January 27, 1993.
22. It is found that the complainant visited the office of the respondent, by appointment, on February 3 and 10, 1993, to obtain copies of those documents.
23. It is found that the respondent was able to provide copies of some of the documents, but could not find others.
24. It is found that some of the documents not provided to the complainant may be duplicates of other documents provided to the complainant.
25. Specifically, it is found that some of the maps requested by the complainant may be the same piece of paper as an earlier map requested, with revisions added to the original version without creating a new map.
Docket #93-44 Page 4
26. It is also found, however, that some of the documents not provided to the complainant are not duplicates of other documents provided.
27. Specifically, it is found that the items designated as numbers 17 and 19 on the complainant's January 27, 1992 written request exist, are not duplicates of other documents provided to the complainant, and were not provided to the complainant.
28. It is concluded that the items designated as numbers 17 and 19 on the complainant's January 27, 1992 written request are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.
29. It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), by failing to provide, promptly upon request, copies of public records.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The respondent shall, within two weeks after the mailing of the final decision in this matter: (a) provide the complainant, at no cost to the complainant, a copy of the document designated as number 17 on his January 27, 1992 written request; (b) conduct a diligent search for the document designated as number 19 on the complainant's January 27, 1992 written request, and either provide, at no cost, a copy of that document to the complainant, or, if no such document is located, provide an affidavit attesting to the steps the respondent took in attempting to locate the document, and explaining why the respondent was unable to locate the document; (c) conduct a diligent search for any maps designated as items 10, 13, 14 and 21 on the complainant's January 27, 1992 written request, and either provide, at no cost, copies of all such maps, or, if no maps additional to the one already provided to the complainant and designated as item 12 on his January 27, 1992 written request are located, provide an affidavit attesting to the steps the respondent took to locate such maps, and explaining why such maps do not exist.
2. Henceforth the respondent shall strictly comply with the record of votes provision contained in 1-21(a), G.S., and with the provisions of 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of August 25, 1993.
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #93-44 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:
Scotland, CT 062654
Scotland Planning and Zoning Commission
c/o Atty. Lloyd L. Anderson
P. O. Box 10
Canterbury, CT 06331
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission