FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Gregory J. Carman and The
Milford Professional Fire Fighters
Association Local 944,
Complainants
against Docket #FIC 1998-280
John Healy, Chairman, Board of
Fire Commissioners, City of Milford;
Phillip Ucci, Vice Chairman, Board of
Fire Commissioners, City of Milford;
Thomas Riso, Jr.; Edward Obert; John
Griffen; Edmond Colangelo; and Carmen
Corvino, as members, Board of Fire
Commissioners, City of Milford; and
Board of Fire Commissioners, City of
Milford,
Respondents May 12, 1999

        The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 4, 1998, at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared, 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-200(a), G.S. [formerly 1-18a(a), G.S.]

        2. By letter dated August 26, 1998, and filed on September 2, 1998, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that:

"…there were no minutes taken…" during an August 4, 1998, meeting of the respondent board (hereinafter "August meeting");

the fire chief inappropriately attended an executive session held during the August meeting; and

a vote was taken in such executive session.

The complainants asked that the Commission declare null and void the decision reached by the respondents at the August meeting and that civil penalties be imposed.

        3. At the outset, the respondents contend that the complainants lack standing to bring the complaint because they are not aggrieved by the respondents’ actions and that, accordingly, the Commission lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the complaint in this matter.

        4. Section 1-206(b)(1), G.S. [formerly 1-21i(b)(1), G.S.], provides in relevant part that:

[a]ny person denied the right to inspect or copy records

under section 1-210 or wrongfully denied the right to attend

any meeting of a public agency or denied any other right

conferred by the Freedom of Information Act may appeal

therefrom to the Freedom of Information Commission, by

filing a notice of appeal with said commission….

        5. It is concluded that the complainants have standing to pursue the complaint pursuant to 1-206(b)(1), G.S. [formerly 1-21i(b)(1), G.S.], and that the Commission has jurisdiction over this matter.

        6. The respondents contend that the allegation contained in paragraph 2.a, above, does not fairly constitute an allegation that they denied the complainants copies of minutes. The respondents further contend that if the Commission were to consider an allegation to such effect in this matter, it would violate their due process rights.

        7. Section 1-210(a), G.S. [formerly 1-19(a), G.S.], provides in relevant part:

…[e]ach such [public] agency shall make, keep and maintain

a record of the proceedings of its meetings.

        8. Section 1-225(a), G.S. [formerly 1-21(a), G.S.], provides, in relevant part:

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

        9. It is concluded that 1-210(1) and 1-225(a), G.S. [formerly 1-19(a) and 1-21(a), G.S.], impose a duty on public agencies to prepare and make available for the public minutes of their meetings, within the time constraints imposed therein. It is further concluded that the allegation described in paragraph 2.a., above, constitutes an allegation that the respondents did not timely prepare minutes of the August meeting, and the respondents were sufficiently apprised of such allegation by the complaint.

        10. It is found that the complainant Carman made a request for the minutes of the August meeting approximately ten days after such meeting at the office of the city clerk, where he had previously viewed earlier minutes of the respondent board, and that minutes were not available at such time.

        11. It is concluded that the respondents violated 1-225(a), G.S. [formerly 1-21(a), G.S.], by failing to timely file and make available to the public the minutes of the August meeting.

        12. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2.b, above, it is found that the respondent board convened in executive session during the August meeting, which session was attended by the fire chief.

        13. Section 1-231(a), G.S. [formerly 1-21g(a), G.S.], in relevant part provides that:

[a]t an executive session of a public agency, attendance shall

be limited to members of said body and persons invited by said

body to present testimony or opinion pertinent to matters before

said body provided that such persons' attendance shall be limited

to the period for which their presence is necessary to present such

testimony or opinion….

        14. It is found that throughout the executive session described in paragraph 12, above, the fire chief presented opinions pertinent to matters before the respondent board within the meaning of 1-231(a), G.S. [formerly 1-21g(a), G.S.]

        15. It is therefore concluded that the respondents did not violate 1-231(a), G.S. [formerly 1-21g(a), G.S.], as alleged in paragraph 2.b., above.

        16. With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 2.c, above, it is found that the respondents did not vote in the executive session described in paragraph 12, above.

        17. It is therefore concluded that the respondents did not violate the Freedom of Information Act, as alleged in paragraph 2.c., above.

        18. At the hearing in this matter, the complainants raised additional issues. It is concluded that the Commission lacks jurisdiction to consider matters that are not within the scope of the complaint.

        19. The Commission declines to declare null and void the actions taken at the August meeting. Likewise, the Commission declines to impose civil penalties.

 

        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 1-225(a), G.S. [formerly 1-21(a), G.S.].

        2. The respondent board shall forthwith create minutes for its August 4, 1998 meeting, including any record of votes, if any votes were taken.

        3. If the respondents have not already done so, they shall provide the complainants with a copy of the minutes of the August meeting.

  

 

        Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 12, 1999.

 

_________________________

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:

 

Gregory J. Carman and The
Milford Professional Fire Fighters
Association Local 944
c/o Atty. Daniel P. Hunsberger, Sr.
35 Glen Hollow Drive
Monroe, CT 06468
John Healy, Chairman, Board of
Fire Commissioners, City of Milford;
Phillip Ucci, Vice Chairman, Board of
Fire Commissioners, City of Milford;
Thomas Riso, Jr.; Edward Obert; John
Griffen; Edmond Colangelo; and Carmen
Corvino, as members, Board of Fire
Commissioners, City of Milford; and
Board of Fire Commissioners, City of
Milford
c/o Atty. Marilyn J. Lipton
City Attorney
City Hall, 110 River Street
Milford, CT 06460

 

 

__________________________

Melanie R. Balfour

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC1998-280FD/mrb/05201999