FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
against Docket #FIC 95-253
William A. Shaw, Clerk, Bridgeport Planning and Zoning Commission and
Bridgeport Planning and Zoning Commission,
Respondents March 27, 1996
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on January 25, 1996, at which time the complainant, Mr. Shaw and counsel for the respondents appeared, and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. The case caption has been changed to correctly identify the complainant and respondents in this matter.
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. It is found that by letter dated July 6, 1995 ("July letter"), the complainant requested certified copies of each of the following for both the respondent commission's June 12 and June 25, 1995 public hearings ("June meetings"): a) the meeting minutes; b) the minutes of any executive sessions convened; c) the record of votes; and d) interagency correspondence and/or memoranda pertaining to the aforementioned meetings ("correspondence").
3. It is further found that in his July letter the complainant also requested a certified copy of the respondent commission's full decision and approval("application decision"), including the conditions of the approval, for planning and zoning application numbers: 95-40, 95-41 and 95-42 ("applications").
4. It is found that by reply letter dated July 18, 1995, the respondent clerk acknowledged receipt of the July letter, advised the complainant that all of the requested information was not available, and informed him that he could review and get copies of the available records.
Docket #FIC 95-253 Page 2
5. By letter of complaint dated July 26, 1995, and filed with this Commission on July 31, 1995, the complainant appealed the respondents' failure to fully comply with his records request ("complaint"). In his complaint the complainant requested that the June meetings be declared null and void, and all actions taken on the applications be deemed void.
6. At the hearing on this matter the complainant requested a civil penalty. The respondents did not object to the hearing officer's consideration of the complainant's request for a civil penalty, rather, they argued against the imposition of such a penalty.
7. It is found that the requested records are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.
8. Section 1-21(a), G.S., in relevant part states that:
The votes of each member of any ... public agency upon any issue before such 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 .... (Emphasis added.)
9. It is found that the record of votes for the June meetings were not available within forty-eight hours of each June meeting.
10. It is concluded that the respondents violated 1-21(a), G.S., by: (a) failing to have the record of votes available for public inspection forty-eight hours after each June meeting, and (b) failing to provide the complainant with a certified copy of the record of votes promptly upon request, as required by 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.
11. The respondent clerk concedes that the minutes were not available for public inspection or copying within seven days of each June meeting as required by 1-21(a), G.S.
12. The respondent clerk further acknowledges that the respondent commission's minutes are not generally filed in accordance with the requirements set forth in 1-21(a), G.S.
13. It is found that on or about August 14, 1995, the respondent clerk provided the complainant with a certified copy of the minutes of the June 12, 1995 meeting, and on or about August 16, 1995, he provided the complainant with a certified copy of the minutes of the June 26, 1995 meeting.
Docket #FIC 95-253 Page 3
14. It is concluded that the respondents violated 1-21(a), G.S., by: (a) failing to have the minutes of the June meetings available for public inspection within seven days of each June meeting, and (b) failing to provide the complainant with a certified copy of the minutes upon request, as required by 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.
15. It is found that no executive sessions were held at either of the June meetings, and it is concluded that the records described in paragraph 2(b) of the findings, above, do not exist.
16. It is found that the respondents failed to promptly, and/or fully provide the complainant with both the correspondence identified in paragraph 2(d) of the findings, above, and the application decisions identified in paragraph 3 of the findings, above.
17. It is therefore concluded that the respondents' failure to promptly and/or fully comply with the complainant's request for certified copies of correspondence and the application decisions violated the provisions of 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.
18. It is found that the respondents' violations of the complainant's rights conferred under 1-15, 1-19(a), and 1-21(a), G.S. were without reasonable grounds.
19. It is also found under the facts of this case that the complainant failed to allege or prove that the respondents improperly noticed, convened or conducted the June meetings, in violation of 1-21(a), G.S.
20. Therefore, the Commission declines to declare the June meetings null and void, or to void any action taken at either meeting with respect to the applications.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. Forthwith, the respondent clerk shall provide the complainant with a certified copy of the record of votes for the June meetings, free of charge.
2. Forthwith, the respondent clerk shall search the respondent commission's files to determine if additional correspondence exists, and a certified copy of any such records found shall be provided to the complainant, free of charge.
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3. If the respondent clerk has not fully complied with the complainant's request for certified copies of the application decisions he shall immediately provide any records not already provided, free of charge.
4. Henceforth, the respondents shall strictly comply with the requirements for filing, and permitting public inspection and copying of the record of votes and minutes of its meetings, as set forth in 1-21(a), 1-19(a), and 1-15, G.S.
5. The Commission notes further that the record of votes must be available within forty-eight hours of the meeting to which they refer. Additionally, if "approved" minutes have not been filed and are unavailable to the public within seven days of the date of the regular meeting to which they refer, "unapproved" or "draft" minutes should be available to the public, and clearly identified as such.
6. A civil penalty in the amount of one hundred dollars ($100.00) is imposed against William A. Shaw, the respondent clerk and the custodian of the records at issue. Within forty-five days of the date of mailing the notice of final decision in this case the civil penalty payment shall be remitted to this Commission.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 27, 1996.
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:
c/o Serge G. Mihaly, Esq.
925 White Plains Road
Trumbull, CT 06611
William A. Shaw, Clerk, Bridgeport Planning and Zoning Commission and Bridgeport Planning and Zoning Commission
c/o John H. Barton, Esq.
Office of City Attorney
202 State Street
Bridgeport, CT 06604
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission