FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Joanne M. Pelton and New Haven Register,
against Docket #FIC 93-113
Seymour Ambulance Association,
Respondent October 13, 1993
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on August 6, 1993, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.
After the hearing, the Commission on its own motion made a full exhibit the unapproved minutes of the respondent's April 22, 1993 meeting, which had been marked for identification purposes only at the hearing.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:
1. By letter of complaint filed April 26, 1993, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that they were denied access to the April 22, 1993 meeting of the respondent.
2. The respondent maintains that it is not a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.
3. It is found that the respondent provides ambulance services for the town of Seymour only, and is the only ambulance company serving in the town.
4. It is found that the respondent was organized initially as a group of volunteers in 1969, who staffed a town-owned ambulance that until then had been staffed by off-duty police officers.
5. The Commission takes administrative notice that the respondent is subject to state statutes that govern emergency medical services pursuant to 19a-175, G.S., et seq.
6. The Commission also takes administrative notice of the fact that the department is subject to the regulations of the state's office of emergency medical services, pursuant to 19a-178 through 179, G.S.
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7. Section 19a-176, G.S., provides that the state department of health services is responsible for the planning, coordination and administration of a state-wide emergency medical care service system, utilizing the services of local emergency medical services councils and the state department of health services.
8. Section 19a-183, G.S., requires the establishment of regional emergency medical services councils, comprised of towns designated by the commissioner of health services.
9. Section 19a-184, G.S., requires emergency medical services councils to forward to the commissioner of health services an emergency medical services plan for its region.
10. Section 19a-182(b), G.S., requires each emergency medical services council to develop and annually revise a plan for the delivery of emergency medical services in its area.
11. Section 19a-177(k), G.S., provides that if no emergency medical services council exists within a region, the Commissioner of Health Services shall develop in conjunction with the regional coordinator the emergency medical services plan for such region.
12. It is concluded that the provision of emergency ambulance transportation services is among the required components of an emergency medical services plan pursuant to 19a-175, G.S., et seq.
13. Section 19a-190, G.S., authorizes a municipality to contract with a volunteer ambulance company for the performance of ambulance services.
14. It is found that the town of Seymour has a contract with the respondent as authorized by 19a-190, G.S.
15. Section 19a-191, G.S., provides that volunteer ambulance personnel are deemed to be municipal employees for the purposes of the state workers' compensation commission.
16. The Commission takes administrative notice of the fact that the Seymour town charter provides for an office of emergency medical services, which office shall consist of volunteers of the respondent and which office shall be under the general jursidiction of the Seymour board of selectmen.
17. It is found that the Seymour office of emergency medical services is not operational.
18. It is found that the respondent has proposed town ordinances that would fulfill the requirements of the charter regarding the office of emergency medical services, make the
Docket #FIC 93-113 Page 3
respondent more accountable to the town, and establish a strong tie to the municipal government.
19. It is therefore found that emergency medical services, including ambulance services, are a governmental function, and that the respondent is both heavily involved with and regulated by the state, and substantially involved with the government of the town of Seymour.
20. It is found that the respondent organized as a corporation in 1972, at which time the town donated the ambulance to the respondent.
21. It is found that the respondent was not directly created by the town of Seymour, although the respondent's chief initial asset, its original ambulance, was contributed by the town.
22. It is found that the respondent has received varying levels of funding from the town, both in the form of actual funds and the provision of services, in addition to funds raised from private sources.
23. It is found that the amount of actual funds received from the town by the respondent has ranged from about $26,000 in 1989, or about about 15% of all actual funds received, to about $52,000 in 1991, or about 60% of all actual funds received.
24. It is found that the town also provides extensive services to the respondent, such as the use of garage space, utilities, workers compensation insurance, and liability and property insurance.
25. It is found that the value of services provided by the town is in the neighborhood of $25,000.
26. It is found that the town has also paid about $18,000 a year for the so-called "C-MED" service, a communication service the police call in response to 911 calls, and which in turn calls the ambulance service.
27. It is found that the respondent is the only town organization that receives calls from C-MED.
28. It is therefore found that the respondent has received, on average over the past three years, approximately $40,000 a year in actual funds and approximately $43,000 a year in services from the town, representing about 72% of an average budget of $115,000 per year.
29. It is found that the proposed 1993-94 town budget recommends that the respondent receive only $18,000 in actual funds from the town in 1993-94, the balance of funds previously supplied by the town to be made up of direct fees charged to patients.
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30. It is also found, however, that the 1993-94 budget and the funding allocated by it was not in effect at the time of the meeting alleged in this complaint.
31. It is therefore found that a substantial portion of the respondent's costs and expenses are paid for with public funds.
32. It is therefore concluded, based on the totality of relevant factors, that the respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.
33. It is found that the respondent held a special meeting on April 22, 1993.
34. It is found that the complainants and other members of the public were excluded from the meeting.
35. The respondent maintains that the public was properly excluded from the meeting, because the meeting was called to discuss the performance of its executive director.
36. It is found, however, that the respondent failed to prove either that an executive session was convened pursuant to the procedures set forth in 1-21(a), G.S., or that the meeting was confined to discussion concerning performance of its executive director.
37. It is concluded, therefore, that the respondent violated 1-21(a) and 1-18a(e), G.S.
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 conduct itself in compliance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act, 1-15, G.S., et seq.
2. In particular, the respondent shall henceforth act in strict compliance with the requirements of 1-18a(e) and 1-21(a), G.S.
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Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of October 13, 1993.
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
THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CARE ARE:
Joanne M. Pelton, Esq.
New Haven Register
40 Sargent Drive
New Haven, CT 06511-5918
Seymour Ambulance Association
P.O. Box 223
Seymour, CT 06483
Acting Clerk of the Commission