FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
against Docket #FIC 93-101
Windham First Taxing District, Windham First Taxing District
Charter Study Committee and Windham Town Clerk,
Respondents February 16, 1994
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 28 and August 25, 1993, at which times the complainant and the respondents 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.
2. By letter dated April 13, 1993 and filed with the Commission on April 14, 1993, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent Windham First Taxing District ("district") violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by:
a. failing to give timely notice of its April 5, 1993 meeting;
b. failing to give notice that a petition had to be submitted at least twenty-four hours prior to the April 5, 1993 meeting in order to have the budget and the election of officers go to an automatic referendum and failing to give notice of the rescission of an automatic referendum vote;
c. filing a misleading agenda for the April 5, 1993 meeting which stated discussion and vote on amendments to the by-laws when the business actually conducted was revision of the charter;
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d. discussing at the April 5, 1993 meeting items not noticed on the agenda or not added to the agenda by a two-thirds vote;
e. failing to file agendas for its June 8, 1992, October 29, 1992 and March 1, 1993 meetings, filing agendas late for its June 6, 1992, February 22, 1993 and March 1, 1993 meetings and failing to file minutes for its June 8, 1992 and October 26, 1992 meetings; and
f. filing minutes which do not apprise the public of the date of the meeting to which such minutes refer and failing to file an agenda for such meeting.
3. The complainant also alleged that the respondent Windham First Taxing District Charter Study Committee ("committee") violated the FOI Act by failing to file timely agendas and minutes for its August 19, September 2, September 16, September 30 and October 26, 1992 meetings.
4. The complainant alleged further that the respondent Windham Town Clerk ("town clerk") violated the FOI Act by:
a. failing to make available, as of April 6, 1993, copies of all committee agendas and minutes; and
b. failing to identify the date it received certain agendas and minutes by affixing a date stamp to these records.
5. The complainant requested that the Commission issue civil penalties against the respondents. In turn, the respondent town clerk requested that civil penalties be issued against the complainant.
6. Section 1-21(a), G. S., states in pertinent part:
The agenda of the regular meetings ... shall be available to the public and shall be filed, not less than twenty-four hours before the meetings to which they refer, in such agency's regular office or place of business or, if there is no such office or place of business, ... in the office of the clerk of such subdivision for any public agency of a political subdivision of the state ....
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7. Section 1-21(a) also provides in pertinent part:
Notice of each special meeting ... shall be given not less than twenty-four hours prior to the time of such meeting by filing a notice of the time and place thereof in the office of ... the clerk of such subdivision for any public agency of a political subdivision of the state....The ... clerk shall cause any notice received under this section to be posted in his office.
8. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2a., above, it is found that the respondent district placed a notice in a local newspaper indicating that there would be an annual meeting of the electors and voters of the respondent district on April 5, 1993. In addition to placing notice in the newspaper, the respondent district filed a notice for the April 5, 1993 meeting with the respondent town clerk on April 1, 1993, which notice specified an agenda.
9. It is found that no evidence was offered to establish whether the April 5, 1993 annual meeting, for which notice was given as described in paragraph 8, above, was a regular or special meeting within the meaning of 1-21(a), G. S.
10. Section 1-21(a), G.S., refers to regular meetings as those included in an agency's annual schedule of regular meetings, and to special meetings as those not included on such a schedule but which an agency intends to convene, and for which the agency gives at least twenty-four hours notice.
11. In the absence of evidence establishing that the April 5, 1993 annual meeting was a regular meeting within the meaning of 1-21(a), G. S., and in light of the fact that the respondent district filed a notice for such meeting, the Commission finds that the April 5, 1993 annual meeting was a special meeting within the meaning of 1-21(a), G. S.
12. It is found that although the respondent district filed notice of the April 5, 1993 special meeting at least twenty-four hours prior to such meeting, it failed to prove that such notice was filed in the office of the clerk of the respondent district ("district clerk") as required by 1-21(a), G.S.
13. It is therefore concluded that the respondent district violated the notice of special meetings provisions of 1-21(a), G. S.
14. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2b., above, it is found that the complainant has failed to allege a violation of any right under the FOI Act.
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15. Section 1-21(a), G.S., states that the notice of a special meeting shall state the time, place and business to be transacted.
16. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2c., above, it is found that the complainant failed to prove that the respondent district discussed and voted on a matter other than that which is described in its notice as discussion and vote on district by-laws.
17. It is therefore concluded that the complainant has failed to prove that the respondent district violated any rights under the FOI Act.
18. Section 1-21(a), G.S., states that no business other than that specified in the agency's notice of a special meeting shall be considered at such special meeting.
19. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2d., above, and in light of the finding made in paragraph 11 above, it is found that at the April 5, 1993 special meeting, members of the respondent district discussed matters concerning a missing copier and office supplies.
20. It is found that the respondent district failed to provide notice of the copier and office supplies issue which it discussed at the April 5, 1993 special meeting.
21. It is also found that the respondent district failed to prove that the discussion of the copier and supplies issue occurred during the treasurer's report, an item specified in the respondent district's notice, described in paragraph 8, above.
22. It is therefore concluded that the respondent district violated 1-21(a), G.S., by considering business other than that specified in its special meeting notice.
23. Section 1-19(a), G. S., requires that each agency make, keep and maintain a record of the proceedings of its meetings.
24. Section 1-21(a), G. S., requires that the minutes of the meetings of public agencies be made available for public inspection within seven days of the session to which they refer. In addition, 1-21(a), G.S., requires that minutes of an emergency meeting be filed with the clerk of the political subdivision not later than seventy-two hours following such meeting.
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25. With respect to the allegations described in paragraphs 2e., 2f., 3, 4a. and 4b., above, it is found that the respondents' district and committee records are maintained and kept by the district clerk at her home and at the South Windham fire station.
26. It is found that the respondent town clerk is not the custodian of the requested records.
27. It is found that the complainant did not direct her records requests to the district clerk but instead requested records from the respondent Windham Town Clerk.
28. In light of the findings made in paragraphs 23 through 28, inclusive, it is concluded that the complainant failed to direct her records request to the appropriate custodian of the records and has therefore failed to prove that the respondents district, committee and town clerk violated her rights under the FOI Act.
29. The Commission declines to issue civil penalties against any of the parties in this case.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. With respect to the allegations described in paragraphs 2a. and 2d. of the findings, above, the respondent district shall henceforth strictly comply with the provisions of 1-21(a), G. S.
2. The complaint is dismissed with respect to the allegations described in paragraphs 2b., 2c., 2e., 2f., 3, 4a. and 4b., of the findings, above.
3. The Commission notes the apparent lack of communication and intolerance among all the parties, and urges them to try to resolve their differences.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of February 16, 1994.
Elizabeth A. Leifert
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:
Ms. Shirley Vigneri
P.O. Box 93
South Windham, CT 06266
Windham First Taxing District,
Windham First Taxing District Charter Study Committee
c/o Douglas J. Williams, Esq.
Boland, St. Onge & Brouillard
211 Kennedy Drive
P.O. Box 550
Putnam, CT 06260
Windham Town Clerk
c/o Richard S. Cody, Esq.
Michelson, Kane, Royster & Barger
93 Oak Street
Hartford, CT 06106-1552
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission