FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by

Final Decision

Linda D. Nelson,

 

Complainant,

 

against

Docket #FIC 1995-333

Linnea Lomnicky; Barry A. Faticoni; Robert

J. Reeve; Ronald Gold; Michael J. Chowaniec;

Mary Janicki; Barbara Palmer; James Fenner;

Robert Hoyt; Janis Tanner; James E. Bransfield;

and Burlington Charter Commission,

 

Respondents,

July 24, 1996

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 3, 1996, 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., and are properly named as parties in this complaint.

 

2. By letter of complaint dated September 29, 1995 and filed with the Commission on October 2, 1995,, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by denying her access to the minutes of the public hearings held on September 11 and 14, 1995, and by maintaining the minutes of the respondent commission in the First Selectman's of lice. The complainant requests that a civil penalty be imposed upon the respondents.

 

3. It is found that on September 25, 1995, the complainant visited the Burlington town clerk's (hereinafter "town clerk") office and made a written request for a copy of the respondent commission's public hearing minutes of September 11 and 14, 1995.

 

4. It is found that the town clerk was unable to locate the requested minutes at the time of the complainant's visit, as described in paragraph 3, above.

 

 

5. It is found that on September 26, 1995, the complainant again visited the town clerk's office and at that time the First Selectman provided her with a transcript of the September 11 and 14, 1995 hearing proceedings.

 

6. It is found that the respondent commission held a public hearing on September 11, 1995 and such hearing was continued to and reconvened on September 14, 1995 (hereinafter "hearing").

 

7. The complainant contends that the respondents failed to timely provide her with the requested hearing minutes; that the transcript of the September 14, 1995 portion of the hearing is missing certain comments she made at the hearing; and that the transcript of the hearing is kept in the First Selectman's office instead of the town clerk's office..

 

8. At the hearing on this matter, the respondents indicated that the respondent commission does not create minutes of public hearings and that the respondent commission created a transcript of the public hearing following the complainant's request. The respondents requested that a civil penalty be imposed upon the complainant for filing a frivolous complaint.

 

9. Section 1-18a(b), G.S., defines "meeting" as "any hearing or other proceeding of a public agency."

 

10. It is concluded that the public hearing held on September 11 and 14, 1995 is a meeting within the meaning of 1 ‑18(a), G.S.

 

11. Section 1‑l9(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that "each such agency shall make, keep and maintain a record of the proceedings of its meetings."

 

12. In addition, 1‑21(a), G.S., provides that minutes shall be available for public inspection within seven days of the session to which they refer.

 

13. It is concluded that the transcript of the September 11 and 14, 1995 hearing is sufficient a record to satisfy the minutes requirement of 1-l 9(a) and 1-21 (a), G.S.

 

14. It is found that the transcript of the hearing was made available to the complainant within eight business days of such hearing.

 

15. It is therefore concluded that the provision of access to the minutes of the hearing was one day later than required by 1-21(a), G.S. Accordingly, the respondent commission technically violated 1-21, G.S.

 


16. With respect to the allegation concerning the missing comments of the complainant from the minutes of the September 11 and 14, 1995 hearing, it is concluded that nothing in the FOI Act requires that the respondent commission record in its minutes the comments of all persons, and therefore the respondent commission did not violate the FOI Act by failing to include the complainant's comments in its minutes.

 

17. With respect to the allegation concerning the First Selectman keeping the respondent commission's minutes in his office, 1‑l9(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that:

 

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 of flee or place of business, the public records pertaining to such agency shall be kept in the of flee of the clerk of the political subdivision in which such public agency is located....

 

18. It is unclear from the record whether the respondent commission maintains a regular office or place of business.

 

19. It is concluded, however, that in accordance with the requirements of 1-19(a), G.S., if the respondent commission does maintain a regular office or place of business, its records must be maintained there. If the respondent commission does not maintain a regular office or place of business, then its records must be maintained in the town clerk's office.

 

20. The Commission in its discretion declines to impose a civil penalty upon either the complainant or the respondents.

 

The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:

 

1. The respondent commission shall henceforth maintain the records of such agency in accordance with the requirements of 1-1 9(a), G.S., and as more fully described in paragraph 19 of the findings, above.

 


2. The Commission advises the respondents that, while a transcript of a public hearing will usually satisfy the minutes requirements of 1-1 9(a) and 1-21 (a), G.S., other forms of minutes may more easily be prepared to meet the seven day requirement imposed by 1-21(a), G.S. However, any such public hearing minutes must reflect at a minimum, the time, place and date of the hearing, the identities of agency members present, the business transacted (e.g., the subject or purpose of the hearing), and the votes, if any, of each agency member on any issue before the agency.

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of July 24, 1996.

 

 

__________________________

Doris V. Luetjen

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

ficl995-333/fd/mwp/07311996


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:

 

Linda D. Nelson

472 Jerome Avenue

Burlington, CT 06013

 

Linnea Lomnicky; Barry A. Faticoni;

Robert J. Reeve; Ronald Gold; Michael J. Chowaniec;

Mary Janicki; Barbara Palmer; James Fenner;

Robert Hoyt; Janis Tanner; James E. Bransfield;

Burlington Charter Commission

c/o Atty. Charles W. Bauer

Eisenberg, Anderson, Michalik & Lynch

136 West Main Street

P.O. Box 2950

New Britain, CT 06050-2950

 

 

__________________________

Doris V. Luetjen

Acting Clerk of the Commission