FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Joyce L. Bloom,
against Docket #FIC 95-197
Terrence Facey, President, Bogus Hill Tax District,
Respondent June 12, 1996
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 7, 1996, at which time the complainant and the respondent 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 respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.
2. By letters dated May 5, 1995 and May 31, 1995, the complainant requested that the respondent provide her with:
(a) "an exact copy of the [voter] list that you intend to use at the 5/13/95 meeting for purposes of voting on the beach issue, within the stipulated time frame."
(b) "a copy of the minutes, attendance lists and records of all votes for the annual Tax District meeting of 5/13/95, the Board of Directors meeting of 5/27/95 and any future meeting of the Board of Directors between now and the next annual meeting of the Tax District."
3. By letter dated May 13, 1995, and filed June 15, 1995, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by failing to respond to her requests and by failing to maintain public records of the tax district in an accessible place. The complainant requested the imposition of the maximum civil penalty against the respondent.
4. It is found that the requested minutes and the exact copy of the voter list used by the respondent are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.
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5. It is found that under cover letter dated January 19, 1996, the respondent, through counsel, provided the complainant with the minutes of the May 13, 1995 and May 27, 1995 meetings (hereinafter "May meetings").
6. It is found, however, that the respondent's provision of copies of the minutes of the May meetings, eight months after they were requested, was not prompt within the meaning of 1-19(a), G.S.
7. It is concluded that by failing to promptly provide the complainant with copies of the minutes of the May meetings, the respondent violated 1-19(a), G.S.
8. It is found that the respondent did not provide the complainant with the minutes of all Board of Directors meetings held since the date of her May 31, 1995 request.
9. It is concluded that nothing in the FOI Act requires the respondent to comply with a standing request, and that the respondent did not violate the FOI Act by failing to forward all future meeting minutes to the complainant, as completed, for the balance of the year.
10. It is found that the respondent never provided the complainant with the requested voter list.
11. It is found that as of the date of the complainant's first request, the respondent did not have the voter list, but he informed her that she could obtain a copy at town hall.
12. It is found, however, that the complainant is specifically seeking the exact copy of the voter list used by the respondent at the May 13, 1995 annual tax district meeting, including any notations thereon, and that the complainant repeated her request in her May 31, 1995 letter to the respondent.
13. It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to provide the complainant with a copy of the requested voter list that he used at the May 13, 1995 annual tax district meeting, following her second request.
14. It is found that the respondent does not separately maintain "attendance lists" or "records of votes" for its meetings, but that the name of each officer and director present at its meetings is typically noted, and his or her votes recorded, in the meeting minutes.
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15. It is concluded that the respondent did not violate the FOI Act by failing to provide the complainant with attendance lists and records of votes, which it does not maintain separate and apart from its prepared minutes.
16. At the hearing on this matter, the complainant also alleged that the respondent violated the FOI Act by failing to notice the May 13, 1995 and May 27, 1995 meetings and by holding a secret meeting on May 28, 1995, but those allegations were not raised in the original complaint and cannot therefore be addressed as part of this appeal.
17. With respect to the complainant's allegations that the respondent's records are not stored in an accessible place, it is found that the records of the tax district are kept in the home of the secretary of the tax district.
18. At the hearing on this matter, the secretary of the tax district testified that the district's records are available to the public by appointment, when he is in town.
19. Section 1-19(a), G.S., provides, in pertinent part:
"Each such agency shall keep and maintain all public records in its custody at its regular office or place of business in an accessible place and, if there is no such office or place of business, the public records pertaining to such agency SHALL be kept in the office of the clerk of the political subdivision in which such public agency is located..." [Emphasis added.]
20. It is found that the respondent does not maintain a regular office or place of business.
21. It is further found that the respondent petitioned the town of New Fairfield to store the records of the tax district in the town clerk's office, but was informed by letter that the town did not have the facilities to store its records.
22. It is concluded that since the respondent does not maintain a regular office or place of business, the tax district's records are required to be maintained in the clerk's office of the political subdivision in which it is located.
23. It is concluded that although the respondent made an effort to comply with 1-19(a), G.S., he nevertheless violated 1-19(a), G.S., by virtue of his continued failure to maintain tax district records in an accessible place.
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24. Following the hearing on this matter, the respondent filed a motion to dismiss because: 1) the complainant's letter of appeal is dated May 13, 1995, prior to her second request; and 2) the complainant's request was not addressed to the custodian of the records, the secretary of the tax district.
25. It is found that the date on the complainant's letter of appeal appears to be a typographical error, and that the appeal was timely filed with the Commission on June 15, 1995.
Consequently, the respondent's motion to dismiss, with respect to that issue, is denied.
26. The respondent's motion to dismiss is denied with respect to the second issue because of the findings set forth in paragraphs 20, 22 and 23, above.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The respondent shall immediately provide the complainant with a copy of the requested voter list used by him at the May 13, 1995 meeting, without charge.
2. The respondent shall forthwith take all available steps and actions to ensure its compliance with 1-19(a), G.S., with respect to the location of the tax district's public records, including legal action if necessary.
3. Henceforth, the respondent shall strictly comply with the requirements of 1-19(a), G.S.
4. The Commission, in its discretion, declines to impose a civil penalty against the respondent, but cautions the respondent that repeated, willful violations of the FOI Act could subject him to civil penalties of up to $1,000.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 12, 1996.
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 95-197 Page 5
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:
Dr. Joyce Bloom
17 Bogus Hill Road
New Fairfield, CT 06812
Terrence Facey, President, Bogus Hill Tax District
c/o William W. Sullivan, Esq.
24 Shelter Rock Road
Danbury, CT 06810
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission