FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
against Docket #FIC 95-92
Logan Clarke, Jr., Chairman, and Marie O'Brien, Member,
State of Connecticut, Board of Governors for Higher
Education; and Andrew DeRocco, Commissioner, and
Valerie Lewis, Deputy Commissioner, State of
Connecticut, Department of Higher Education,
Respondents December 13, 1995
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 20, 1995, at which time 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 and filed March 31, 1995, the complainant appealed to the Commission and alleged that the respondents: (1) denied his right to tape-record a March 28, 1995 meeting of the Board of Governors for Higher Education (hereinafter "BGHE"); (2) failed to file a notice of special meeting; and (3) failed to post a notice of adjournment of such meeting. Additionally, the complainant requested that civil penalties be imposed against the respondents.
3. The complainant seeks to file his complaint as a class-action appeal on behalf of the Connecticut Asian-American community.
4. It is concluded that the Commission lacks jurisdiction to address this matter as a class-action appeal.
5. It is found that by letter dated February 14, 1995, the complainant requested a meeting with respondent Clarke and the BGHE to discuss issues of concern to the Asian-American community in higher education.
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6. It is found that the respondents and the BGHE were under no legal obligation to meet with the complainant.
7. It is found that respondent Clarke nevertheless agreed to the requested meeting, and that on March 28, 1995, in the offices of the Department for Higher Education, the respondents assembled with the complainant and several members of the Asian-American community.
8. It is found that the complainant requested permission to tape-record their discussion and that respondent Clarke denied the complainant's request.
9. It is further found that after a brief discussion concerning the permissibility of taping, respondent Clarke stated that he would leave if the complainant insisted on taping their discussion; and that the complainant then pressed the "record" button on his taping equipment, at which time the respondents rose and left the room.
10. It is found that the intended discussion never took place.
11. The respondents maintain that the complainant was not entitled to tape-record their discussion because it was not a public "meeting" but only an informal "round-table" discussion.
12. Section 1-18a(b), G.S., provides, in pertinent part:
"Meeting" means any hearing or other proceeding of a public agency, any convening or assembly of a quorum of a multimember public agency, and any communication by or to a quorum of a multimember public agency ... to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power. "Meeting" shall not include: ... an administrative or staff meeting of a single-member public agency...
13. It is found that the Board of Governors for Higher Education is comprised of 11 members.
14. It is found that respondents DeRocco and Lewis serve as staff to the BGHE.
15. It is found that respondent Clarke contacted only two other members of the BGHE to invite them to participate in the intended discussion, and that respondents Clarke and O'Brien were the only members of the BGHE in attendance on March 28, 1995.
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16. It is found that respondents Clarke and O'Brien do not constitute a quorum of the BGHE.
17. It is found that the intended meeting was never directed, approved or endorsed by the BGHE.
18. It is found that the March 28, 1995 gathering and intended discussion was neither a hearing nor a proceeding of the BGHE, and it is concluded therefore that the gathering was not a "meeting" of the BGHE within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S.
19. It is found that respondent Clarke is a single-member public agency.
20. It is found that the intended gathering was an administrative or staff meeting of respondent Clarke, and it is therefore concluded that it was not a "meeting" within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S.
21. It is concluded therefore that the complainant was not entitled to tape-record the intended discussion pursuant to 1-21a(a), G.S.; nor were the respondents required to file a notice of special meeting or an adjournment notice pursuant to 1-21(a) and 1-21d, G.S.
22. It is concluded that under the facts of this case, the respondents did not violate the Freedom of Information Act, and that therefore the Commission lacks jurisdiction to consider the imposition of civil penalties against the respondents.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The complaint is hereby dismissed.
2. The Commission commends the goals and intentions of the parties in scheduling the intended discussion and encourages them to recommence their efforts at communication.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of December 13, 1995.
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 95-92 Page 4
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:
4 Walker Lane
West Hartford, CT 06117
Logan Clarke, Jr., Chairman, and Marie O'Brien, Member, State of Connecticut, Board of Governors for Higher Education, and Andrew DeRocco, Commissioner, and Valerie Lewis, Deputy Commissioner, State of Connecticut, Department of Higher Education
c/o Linsley J. Barbato, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
110 Sherman Street
Hartford, CT 06105-2294
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission