FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by

FINAL DECISION

H. Sean Hoskins,  

Complainant

 

against

Docket #FIC 1996-299

Jess McMinn, President, Colchester Emergency Communications, Inc., and Colchester Emergency Communications, Inc.  

Respondents

May 14, 1997

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 25, 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. It is found that by letter dated July 8, 1996, the complainant requested that the respondent Colchester Emergency Communications, Inc. (hereinafter "CEC") provide him with the following CEC employee records for the period July 1, 1995 to the present:

a. time sheets or time cards for Jeffery Brown ("Brown") and Steven Cowles ("Cowles");

b. detailed "home work" logs for Brown and Cowles; and

c. payroll records, specifically, hours worked and amount paid, for Brown and Cowles.

2. It is found that by letter dated July 10, 1996, the complainant further requested that the respondent CEC provide him with the names and addresses of the respondent CEC’s board of directors.

3. It is found that by letter dated July 12, 1996, the complainant informed the respondent CEC of his intention to file an FOI complaint should the respondent CEC not respond to his July 8, 1996 request.

4. It is found that by letter dated July 23, 1996, the respondent CEC denied the complainant’s requests as described in paragraphs 1 and 2, of the findings, above, (hereinafter "requested records"), indicating that the respondent CEC is not a public agency and even if it is, the requested records are exempt from disclosure.

5. Having failed to receive copies of the requested records, the complainant, by letter dated July 26, 1996 and filed with the Commission on July 28, 1996, alleged that the respondent CEC violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by denying him copies of the requested records. The complainant requested that the Commission impose civil penalties upon the respondents.

6. The four criteria to determine whether the respondent CEC is a "public agency" are:

a. whether the entity performs a governmental function;

b. the level of government funding;

c. the extent of government involvement and regulation; and

d. whether the entity was created by government.

7. Section 28-25a(b), G.S., requires that "[E]ach municipality shall, not later than December 31, 1989, establish and operate a public safety answering point which utilizes enhanced 911 network features."

8. Section 28-25(10), G.S., defines "public safety answering point" as:

a facility, operated on a twenty-four-hour basis, assigned the responsibility of receiving 911 calls and, as appropriate, directly dispatching emergency response services, or transferring or relaying emergency 911 calls to other public safety agencies. A public safety answering point is the first point of reception by a public safety agency of a 911 call and serves the jurisdictions in which it is located or other participating jurisdictions.

9. The respondent CEC is an emergency communication control center and is the public safety answering point for the towns of Salem, East Haddam, Marlborough, Haddam, East Hampton, Colchester, Hebron, and the northern Middlesex County area (hereinafter "the towns"). The respondent CEC is responsible for receiving 911 calls or calls from other designated emergency numbers and, as appropriate, directly dispatches fire and ambulance units for the towns, and also police units for the town of East Hampton.

10. It is concluded that the respondent CEC performs a governmental function.

11. It is found that the respondent CEC receives between 80-90% of its funding from the State of Connecticut (hereinafter "the state") and the towns.

12. It is found that the respondent CEC leases property at the Colchester State Police barracks from the state for $1.00, and the state provides to the respondent CEC, at no cost to the respondent CEC, all utility services, including heat, light, water and standby power for such leased property.

13. It is concluded that the respondent CEC receives substantial government funding.

14. It is found that the respondent CEC is subject to a variety of state laws regulating emergency telecommunications as provided in Chapter 518a, G.S.

15. It is found that the respondent CEC ’s operation and use of the leased property at the police barracks, described in paragraph 12 of the findings, above, is subject to regulation by the barracks commanding officer and the division commanding officer. In addition, the conduct of the respondent CEC’s employees and authorized agents, while on the barracks property are regulated by state police personnel.

16. It is concluded that the respondent CEC is subject to substantial government regulation.

17. It is also found that the respondent CEC is greatly involved with government.

In 1976, the state legislature mandated in Special Act No. 76-83, that:

[CEC] shall (1) provide a single central location, located within the state police barracks in Colchester, for fire alarm receipt and radio communications services for the entire Colchester region (2) handle all ambulance and police emergency calls within said area by use of a centralized regional switchboard and (3) establish, as soon as practible, and maintain a universal emergency numbertelephone facility for said region.  Each town in the Colchester region which uses the emergency communications network shall participate in a cost sharing program to assist in financing such communications network….

18. It is found that the respondent CEC is organized as a nonstock nonprofit corporation, and was not formally created by government.

19. However, based on the totality of the factors considered, it is concluded that the respondent CEC is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S., and is therefore subject to the disclosure requirements of the FOI Act.

20. Section 1-19(a), G.S., provides that:

Except as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute, all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency, whether or not such records are required by any law or by any rule or regulation, shall be public records and every person shall have the right to inspect such records

promptly during regular office or business hours or to receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15. Any agency rule or regulation, or part thereof, that conflicts with the provisions of this subsection or diminishes or curtails in any way the rights granted by this subsection shall be void.

21. At the hearing on this matter, the complainant withdrew the portion of his complaint pertaining to his records request, described in paragraph 1b of the findings, above.

22. It is found that the respondent CEC maintains records responsive to the complainant’s requests, as described in paragraphs 1a, 1c and 2 of the findings, above, and such records are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.

23. It is found that on January 27, 1997 the respondent CEC provided the complainant with copies of all of the records it maintains that are responsive to his requests as described in paragraphs 1a, 1c and 2 of the findings, above.

24. It is concluded that the respondent CEC’s provision of access to the records described in paragraphs 22 and 23, above, was not prompt within the meaning of 1-19(a), G.S., and therefore, the respondents violated 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S.

25. The Commission in its discretion declines to impose civil penalties in this matter.

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

1. Henceforth, the respondents shall strictly comply with the disclosure provisions of 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 14, 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:

H. Sean Hoskins
c/o Thomas Joseph Egan, Esq.
13 Canterbury Road
PO Box 181
Brooklyn, CT 06234

Jess McMinn, President
Colchester Emergency Communications, Inc.
200 Old Hartford Road
Colchester, CT 06415

Colchester Emergency Communications, Inc.
PO Box 911
Colchester, CT 06415

Colchester Emergency Communications, Inc.
c/o Michael E. Satti, Esq.
Levin, Ford, Paulekas, Axelrod & Wright
One State Street
Hartford, CT 06103-3177

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission

FIC1996-299/FD/eal/05231997