FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Timothy Chou and Greenwich Time,
against Docket #FIC 94-61
Sound Beach Volunteer Fire Department,
Respondent October 26, 1994
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 27, 1994, at which time the respondent appeared but the complainants failed to appear to prosecute their complaint. The hearing officer then issued a proposed decision recommending that the case be dismissed. On August 10, 1994 the Commission voted to reopen the case, and a hearing was held on August 29, 1994, at which time the complainant Greenwich Time appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument in support of its complaint, but the respondent failed to appear.
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 24, 1994, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that they were denied access to the respondent's January 26, 1994 meeting, and that the respondent failed to provide them with minutes of the meeting.
3. It is found that the respondent met on January 26, 1994 for the purpose of considering whether it would support the volunteer chief, who had been suspended from duty, and whether it would fund a suit against the town by the volunteer chief.
4. It is found that the complainants were denied the right to attend that meeting.
5. It is also found that the respondent refused the complainants' request for minutes and any other documents pertaining to the meeting.
6. The respondent maintains that its meetings are exempt from the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by 7-314(b), G.S.
7. Section 7-314(b), G.S., provides:
Docket #FIC 94-61 Page 2
Any operational meeting of active members of a volunteer fire department shall not be subject to the provisions of sections 1-15, 1-18a, 1-19 to 1-19b, inclusive, and 1-21 to 1-21k, inclusive.
8. It is found that the respondent's January 26, 1994 meeting was not an operational meeting within the meaning of 7-314, G.S.
9. The respondent also maintains that the records of its January 26, 1994 meeting are exempt from disclosure because they pertain to legal matters and litigation.
10. It is found, however, that the respondent did not convene in executive session at the January 26, 1994 meeting.
11. Section 1-21(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:
The meetings of all public agencies, except executive sessions as defined in subsection (e) of section 1-18a, shall be open to the public. The votes of each member of any such public agency upon any issue before such public agency shall be reduced to writing and made available for public inspection within forty-eight hours and shall also be recorded in the minutes of the session at which taken, which minutes shall be available for public inspection within seven days of the session to which they refer.
12. It is concluded that the minutes of the January 26, 1994 meeting, which meeting was required to be open to the public pursuant to 1-21(a), G.S., are not exempt from disclosure, whether or not they pertain to legal matters and litigation.
13. It is therefore concluded that the respondent violated 1-21(a), G.S., by failing to make the minutes of the January 26, 1994 meeting available to the complainants.
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), G.S., in the conduct of all its non-operational meetings.
2. The respondent shall forthwith provide to the complainant Greenwich Time a copy of the minutes of the January 26, 1994 meeting. Such minutes shall be forthwith created by the respondent if they do not already exist.
Docket #FIC 94-61 Page 3
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of October 26, 1994.
Debra L. Rembowski
Clerk of the Commission
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:
TIMOTHY CHOU and GREENWICH TIME
c/o Carolyn Schurr, Esq.
Assistant General Counsel
780 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017
SOUND BEACH VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT
c/o William Carroll, President
207 Sound Beach Avenue
Old Greenwich, CT 06870
Debra L. Rembowski
Clerk of the Commission