FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Deborah H. Kraft,
against Docket #FIC 1997-114
Health Task Force for Andover,
Hebron, Marlborough and
Regional School District #8,
Respondent January 28, 1998
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 16, 1997, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. The case caption has been amended to reflect the proper name of the respondent.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:
1. By letter dated March 20, 1997, and filed with the Commission on March 21, 1997, the complainant alleged that the respondent task force violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOI”) Act by:
a) not properly noticing its meetings of
February 27, 1997,
and March 17, 1997;
b) not posting agendas for such meetings; and
permitting the complainant to tape record the March 17,
2. The respondent task force contends that its meetings are not meetings subject to the provisions of the FOI Act. Specifically, the respondent claims that its meetings are administrative or staff meetings of the Superintendent of Schools for Andover, Hebron, Marlborough and Regional School District #8 (superintendent) which are not subject to the open meetings requirements of the FOI Act pursuant to §1-18a(2), G.S. (prior to October 1, 1997, §1-18a(b), G.S.).
3. Section 1-18a(2), G.S., in relevant part states:
"[m]eeting" means any hearing or other proceeding of a public agency, any convening or assembly of a quorum of a multimember public agency, and any communication by or to a quorum of a multimember public agency, whether in person or by means of electronic equipment, to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power. "Meeting" shall not include…an administrative or staff meeting of a single-member public agency…
4. It is found that the respondent task force was created at the direction of the superintendent to provide input and make recommendations to the superintendent on health curriculum.
5. It is found that the superintendent is free to accept, reject, or modify recommendations made by the respondent task force regarding health curriculum. It is further found that the respondent task force may be disbanded at the discretion of the superintendent.
6. It is found that the respondent task force is comprised of teachers, administrators, parents, and employees of a youth services organization. It is further found that individual principals select employees within their schools to participate on the task force; that administrators of the youth services organization likewise select its respective employees to serve on the task force; and that parents volunteer for service on the task force. It is further found that the respondent task force meets approximately once a month in public buildings and that such meetings are open to the public.
7. The respondent contends that, because it is merely advisory in nature, it is akin to other administrative or staff meetings held on a daily basis in the superintendent’s office, and that therefore it is not subject to the meeting requirements of the FOI Act.
8. It is found that the respondent is comprised of members who are not members of the superintendent’s staff; therefore its meetings are not staff meetings of the superintendent within the meaning of §1-18(a)(2).
9. It is further found that the superintendent
has delegated the responsibility of formulating and recommending health
curriculum to the respondent and that the respondent acts independently of the
superintendent in its deliberations.
10. It is further found that the respondent’s
meetings are not akin to routine, daily meetings related to the administration
of the superintendent’s office.
11. It is therefore found that the respondent’s meetings are not administrative meetings of the superintendent.
12. It is therefore concluded that the meetings of the respondent task force do not fall within the exception from the definition of “meeting” cited by the respondent at §1-18a(2), G.S.
13. Section 1-18a(1), G.S. (prior to October 1, 1997, §1-18a(a), G.S.), in relevant part states:
"Public agency" or "agency" means any executive, administrative or legislative office of the state or any political subdivision of the state and any state or town agency, any department, institution, bureau, board, commission, authority or official of the state or of any city, town, borough, municipal corporation, school district, regional district or other district or other political subdivision of the state, including any committee of, or created by, any such office, subdivision, agency, department, institution, bureau, board, commission, authority or official…
14. It is found that the superintendent is a public official within the meaning of §1-18a(1), G.S.
15. It is further found that the respondent task
force was created at the direction of the superintendent, as described in
paragraphs 4 through 6, above, to officially perform an advisory function with
respect to health curriculum and despite its designation as a task force, the
respondent is a committee created by a public official within the meaning of §1-18a(1),
16. It is therefore concluded that the respondent task force is a public agency within the meaning of §1-18a(1), G.S., and that its meetings are subject to the provisions of the FOI Act.
17. Section 1-21(a), G. S., in relevant part
The meetings of all public agencies, except executive sessions as defined in subdivision (6) of section 1-18a, shall be open to the public.…The chief executive officer of any multitown district or agency shall file, not later than January thirty-first of each year, with the clerk of each municipal member of such district or agency, the schedule of regular meetings of such public agency for the ensuing year, and no such meeting of any such public agency shall be held sooner than thirty days after such schedule has been filed. The agenda of the regular meetings of every public agency…shall be available to the public and shall be filed, not less than twenty-four hours before the meetings to which they refer, in such agency’s regular office or place of business or, if there is no such office or place of business,…in the office of the clerk of each municipal member of any multitown district or agency…
18. Section 1-21a(a), G.S., in relevant part states:
At any meeting of a public agency…proceedings of such public agency may be recorded, photographed, broadcast or recorded for broadcast, subject to such rules as such public agency may have prescribed prior to such meeting, by any person or by any newspaper, radio broadcasting company or television broadcasting company…
19. It is found that the respondent task force held meetings on February 27, 1997, and March 17, 1997, without filing the appropriate notice of such meetings and without making agendas for such meetings available to the public.
20. It is further found that the respondent task force refused to permit the complainant to tape record its March 17, 1997, meeting.
21. With respect to the allegations described in paragraph 1, above, it is therefore concluded that the respondent task force violated the provisions of §§1-21(a) and 1-21a(a), G.S.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. Henceforth, the respondent shall strictly comply with the provisions of §§1-21(a) and 1-21a(a), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of January 28, 1998.
Doris V. Luetjen
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:
Deborah H. Kraft
c/o James A. Budinetz
Pepe and Hazard
Hartford, CT 06103
Health Task Force for Andover, Hebron, Marlborough and
Regional School District #8
c/o Richard A. Mills, Jr.
Shipman & Goodwin
One American Row
Hartford, CT 06103-2819
Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission