FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by

FINAL DECISION

Lorraine Tirella,  

Complainant

 

against

Docket #FIC 1996-260

Theodore Oczkowski, Hal Olsen, Karin Burke, Bob Fitzgerald, Paul McGinnis, Colleen Lundgren, Enio Pucci, Kent Rotman, and Oxford Park and Recreation Commission,  

Respondents

March 19, 1997

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on January 30, 1997, 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 respondent Oxford Park and Recreation Commission (the "Commission") is a public agency within the meaning of Section 1-18a(a), G.S.

2. By letter dated June 10, 1996, but filed with the Freedom of Information Commission (the "FOI Commission") on June 19, 1996, the complainant appealed to the FOI Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to give her notice of a special meeting of the respondent Commission held on May 21, 1996.

3. It is found that the complainant, at all times pertinent to this appeal, was a member of the respondent Commission.

4. Section 1-21(a), G.S., states in relevant part:

such written notice shall be delivered to the usual place of abode of each member of the public agency so that the same is received prior to such special meeting.

6. It is found that on May 20, 1996, the respondent Theodore Oczkowski, chairman of the respondent Commission, called a special meeting of the Commission for the next day, May 21, 1996.

7. It is found that the clerk of the Commission filed a timely notice of special meeting with the Town Clerk’s office, as required by 1-21(a), G.S.

8. It is found that, pursuant to the Commission’s policy and past practice in circumstances when special meetings are called on short notice, the clerk telephoned all members of the Commission and either spoke with the member or left a message.

9. It is found that, in the case of the complainant, the clerk called on a single occasion, leaving a message on the complainant’s answering machine. No attempt was made to notify the complainant in writing at her abode.

10. The complainant maintains that she received no notice on her answering machine or otherwise before the meeting, and in fact, did not learn of the meeting until some days after it took place. The complainant was not in attendance at the May 21 special meeting of the respondent Commission and filed no written waiver of her statutory notice rights.

11. It is found that only the chairman and the respondent Commission had a legal responsibility for the notice provided to members of the respondent Commission and that members other than the chairman had no such responsibility.

12. It is concluded that the telephone notice provided by the respondent Commission did not satisfy the requirement of written notice set forth in 1-21(a), G.S., and was not a "more stringent notice" as that term is used in the same statutory subsection.

13. It is concluded that the respondent Theodore Oczkowski and the respondent Commission violated 1-21(a), G.S., when they failed to cause written notice to be delivered to complainant’s usual place of abode so that the notice was received prior to the special meeting on May 21, 1996.

14. In its discretion, the FOI Commission declines to consider the imposition of civil penalties.

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

1. The complaint is dismissed as to all respondents except for Theodore Oczkowski and the Commission.

2. Henceforth, the respondent Commission and respondent Theodore Oczkowski shall strictly comply with the notice requirements for special meetings set forth in 1-21(a), G.S.

3. The FOI Commission urges the respondent Commission and respondent Oczkowski to exercise greater diligence with respect to Freedom of Information Act requirements and wishes to caution the respondents that similar violations in the future could result in the imposition of sanctions and penalties.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 19, 1997.

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting 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:

Lorraine Tirella
11 Larkey Road
Oxford, CT 06478

Theodore Oczkowski, Hal Olsen, Karin Burke, Bob Fitzgerald, Paul McGinnis, Colleen Lundgren, Enio Pucci, Kent Rotman, and Oxford Park and Recreation Commission
c/o Dominick J. Thomas, Jr., Esq.
Oxford Town Counsel
PO Box 313
Derby, CT 06418

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1996-260/FD/eal/03251997