FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by

FINAL DECISION

Lorraine Tirella,  

Complainant

 

against

Docket #FIC 1996-294

Kate Cosgrove; Charles Lyons; Paul Schreiber and Board of Selectmen, Town of Oxford,  

Respondents

April 9, 1997

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 13, 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 board and the named individual respondents as members of the respondent board are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

2. It is found that on July 11, 1996, the complainant went to the Oxford town hall and requested from the town clerk access to the minutes of the respondent board’s February 21, 1996 meeting, which minutes were not on file at that time.

3. By letter dated July 22, 1996 and filed on July 25, 1996, the complainant appealed to the Commission and alleged that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by failing to file the February 21, 1996 meeting minutes of the respondent board with the town clerk. The complainant also requested the imposition of civil penalties against the named respondents.

4. It is found that the complainant informed the respondents and the Commission during the course of a contested-case hearing in FIC#1996-059 Lorraine Tirella v. First Selectman, Town of Oxford; Board of Selectmen, Town of Oxford and Town Attorney, Town of Oxford ("#FIC1996-059") that she had sought the subject meeting minutes on July 11, 1996 in preparation for the July 15, 1996 hearing in #FIC1996-059 and that they were not available.

5. It is found that following the hearing in #FIC1996-059, the respondents constructed minutes of the February 21, 1996 meeting and filed such minutes with the town clerk on July 22, 1996.

6. Section 1-21(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:

…minutes [of meetings] shall be available for public inspection within seven days of the session to which they refer.

7. It is concluded that the respondents violated the provisions of 1-21(a), G.S., by failing to make the minutes of the February 21, 1996 meeting available for public inspection within seven days.

8. The complainant, in support of her request for civil penalties, contended that the respondent’s failure to file the particular minutes at issue might have been intentional, but did not offer reasons to support her belief.

9. The respondents maintained that civil penalties would not be appropriate in this case because their failure to file the February 21, 1996 minutes within seven days was an honest mistake and because as soon as they became aware of their omission, they created minutes and filed them with the town clerk.

10. Under the specific facts and circumstances of this case, the Commission declines to impose civil penalties upon the respondents.

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

Henceforth the respondents shall strictly comply with the minutes requirements set forth in 1-21(a), G.S.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of April 9, 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

Kate Cosgrove; Charles Lyons; Paul Schreiber and Board of Selectmen, Town of Oxford
c/o Dominick J. Thomas, Jr., Esq.
Town Counsel - Town of Oxford
15 Main Street
PO Box 313
Derby, CT 06418

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1996-294/FD/eal/04221997