FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
Jerome Looby and Josh Kovner,
|against||Docket #FIC 1998-127|
Panel, City of Hartford; and City
|Respondents||September 23, 1998|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 17, 1998, 1997, at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. The case caption has been amended to correct the spelling of the name of one complainant.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:
1. By letter dated April 29, 1998, and filed with the Commission on May 1, 1998, the complainants alleged that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) Act by:
a) not permitting the tape recording of an April 2, 1998 meeting of the respondent panel; andb) denying one complainant access to such meeting.
The complainants requested that a civil penalty be imposed upon the respondents and that they receive costs associated with filing and prosecuting this complaint.
2. It is found that, in accordance with the Affirmative Action Plan of the City of Hartford, the respondent panel was created at the direction of the citys personnel department. It is also found that such panel consisted of three members who were employees of the city and who were the equal employment opportunity liaisons within their own departments. It is further found that the purpose of creating the respondent panel was to conduct a hearing which would resolve differences related to affirmative action grievances filed by complainants Looby and Dubel against certain officials of the Hartford Fire Department.
3. It is found that the respondent panel met on April 2, 1998 and that all three members attended such meeting.
4. It is further found that the respondents denied complainant Kovner access to the April 2, 1998 meeting. It is further found that the respondents denied complainants Peterson, Looby and Dubel the right to tape record such meeting.
5. Section 1-21(a), G. S., in relevant part states:
The meetings of all public agencies, except executive sessions as defined in subdivision (6) of section 1-18a, shall be open to the public.
6. 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 .
7. The respondents contend that the April 2, 1998 meeting described in paragraph 3, above, was not a meeting subject to the provisions of the FOI Act. Rather, the respondents contend that such meeting was a part of the confidential affirmative action complaint process, and that a finding that such meeting, and meetings like it, are open to the public would deter others from filing affirmative action complaints in the future.
8. 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 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 .
(Emphasis added). 9. Section 1-18a(1), 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
10. It is found that the respondent panel is a committee created by the personnel department of the City of Hartford.
11. It is therefore concluded that the respondent panel 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.
12. It is found that when the respondent panel met on April 2, 1998 it was a convening of a quorum of a multi-member public agency.
13. It is concluded that the April 2, 1998 meeting was a meeting within the meaning of §1-18a(2), G.S., and that therefore the respondents violated §1-21(a), G. S., by denying complainant Kovner access to the April 2, 1998 meeting, as described in paragraphs 3 and 4, above.
14. It is further concluded that the respondents violated §1-21a(a), G.S., by denying complainants Peterson, Looby and Dubel the right to tape record the April 2, 1998 meeting, as described paragraphs 3 and 4, above.
15. The Commission declines to impose a civil penalty in this matter and is without authority to award the complainants costs, as requested in their complaint.
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 provisions of §§1- 21(a) and 1-21a(a), G.S.
2. The respondents contentions described in paragraph 7 of the findings, above, while perhaps superficially appealing from a policy public policy standpoint lack supporting evidence. In any event, the respondents contentions must fail in view of the requirements of the FOI Act. Moreover, it is noted that the FOI Act provides for confidentiality of certain discussions concerning employee evaluations. Specifically, §1- 18a(6), G.S., provides that public agencies may meet in executive session to discuss the appointment, employment, performance, evaluation, health or dismissal of a public officer or employee, provided that the subject of the discussion agrees to a closed session. However, the respondents have not contended that the April 2, 1998 meeting described in paragraph 3, above, was a valid executive session.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of September 23, 1998.
_________________________ Melanie R. Balfour 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:
Charles Peterson 136 Wheeler Road Wethersfield, CT 06109
Patrick Dubel 36 Seneca Drive Vernon, CT 06066
Jerome Looby 104 Bidwell Street Glastonbury, CT 06033
Josh Kovner Hartford Courant 285 Broad Street Hartford, CT 06115
Affirmative Action Arbitration Panel, City of Hartford; and City of Hartford c/o Atty. Karen K. Buffkin Assistant Corporation Counsel 550 Main Street Hartford, CT. 06103
__________________________ Melanie R. Balfour Acting Clerk of the Commission