FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|Thomas Bonanno and
West Farms Builders, Inc.,
|against||Docket #FIC 1998-222|
Waterford Country School, Inc.;
and Waterford Country School, Inc.,
|Respondents||December 9, 1998|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 20, 1998, at which time the complainants 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. By letter dated July 15, 1998, the complainants requested that the respondents provide them with tape recordings of the interviews of three contractors involved in the awarding of the construction management contract for the Levine Educational Center, as well as the minutes of the Board of Trustees (hereinafter board) of the Waterford Country School, Inc. (hereinafter school) decision on such award.
2. Having failed to receive the requested records, by letter dated July 28, 1998, and filed on July 29, 1998, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents thereby violated the Freedom of Information (hereinafter FOI) Act.
3. By letter dated August 10, 1998, the respondents informed the complainants that the requested tapes would be provided, but declined to provide the requested minutes, contending that the FOI Act does not apply to them.
4. At the hearing in this matter, the complainants limited their complaint to the question of the minutes.
5. The respondents first contend that the minutes are not properly within the scope of the complaint, since the letter of complaint does not directly refer to such records. However, it is found that the complaint letter refers to the letter of request described in paragraph 1, above, and states that the information requested therein is the subject of the complaint. Accordingly, it is concluded that the issue of the minutes is properly within the scope of the complaint.
6. The respondents next contend that they are not functional equivalents of public agencies and, thus, are not subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission.
7. Section 1-18a(1), G.S., in relevant part, defines a public agency to mean:
any office of any political subdivision of the state and any town agency, any department, institution, bureau, board, commission, authority or official 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 .
8. The test for determining whether an entity is the functional equivalent of a public agency within the meaning of §1-18a(1), G.S., is outlined in Board of Trustees of Woodstock Academy v. FOI Commission, 181 Conn. 544, 554 (1980), and consists of the following four criteria: (1) whether the entity performs a governmental function; (2) the level of government funding; (3) the extent of government involvement or regulation; and (4) whether the entity was created by government.
9. Based upon Connecticut Humane Society v. FOI Commission, 218 Conn. 757, 761 (1991), all four factors in Woodstock, above, are not necessary for a finding of functional equivalence, but rather all relevant factors are to be considered cumulatively, with no single factor being essential or conclusive.
10. With respect to the first criterion of the functional equivalence test (governmental function), it is found that the school is a residential facility for approximately 72 troubled children and teenagers who, for a variety of emotional and physical reasons, do not live at home. It is further found that the school provides crises intervention and emergency foster care for its residents.
11. It is found that, while some of the residents attend classes at the school, the majority attend other educational facilities. It is also found that a small number of students from surrounding communities attend day classes at the school.
12. It is concluded that the school does not perform a traditional governmental function.
13. With respect to the second criterion of the functional equivalence test (level of government funding), it is found that the school receives funds from a variety of sources, including state and local governments. Specifically, it is found that the school receives considerable funds through its fund-raising efforts. Additionally, it is found that the school recently received a million dollar grant from the state through the Department of Children & Families, the purpose of which is to fund the contract described in paragraph 1, above. It is further found that funds are received from surrounding municipalities on a per student basis for the small number of day students described in paragraph 11, above. Finally, it is found that the school has a contract with the state, wherein it receives fees on a per student basis for resident services provided.
14. With respect to the third criterion of the functional equivalence test (extent of government involvement or regulation), it is found that the school is subject to the same government regulation imposed upon any private school licensed within Connecticut. Accordingly, it is concluded that the level of governmental involvement or regulation is no more than average for the type of organization at issue.
15. With respect to the fourth criterion of the functional equivalence test (whether the entity was created by government), it is found that the school was created in New York in 1922 and was later incorporated as a non-profit, tax-exempt corporation in Connecticut. There is no evidence in the record to suggest that government was involved in the schools creation. Accordingly, it is concluded that the school was not created by government.
16. Based on the foregoing, it is concluded that the respondents are not the functional equivalents of public agencies within the meaning of §1-18a(1), G.S.
17. Consequently, it is concluded that the respondents are not bound by the provisions of the FOI Act, as alleged in the complaint.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The complaint is hereby dismissed. Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of December 9, 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:
Thomas Bonanno and West Farms Builders, Inc. PO Box 24 Quaker Hill, CT 06375
Executive Director, Waterford Country School, Inc.; and Waterford Country School, Inc. c/o Atty. Joseph J. Selinger, Jr. 43 Broad Street, PO Box 58 New London, CT 06320-0058 and David B. Moorehead Executive Director Waterford Country School Inc. 78 Hunts Brook Road PO Box 24 Quaker Hill, CT 06375
__________________________ Melanie R. Balfour Acting Clerk of the Commission