OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by
|Docket #FIC 2001-319|
Board of Fire
|September 12, 2001|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 30,
2001, at which time the complainant and the respondent 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. The respondent is a
public agency within the meaning of §1-200(1), G.S.
2. By letter dated June
20, 2001, and filed with the Commission on June 26, 2001, the complainant
alleged that the respondent board failed to comply with the notice of meeting
requirements of the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act with respect to a
special meeting that was noticed for June 16, 2001 and by not holding the
meeting as indicated in the notice.
3. At the hearing on this
matter, the respondent moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that it
did not allege a violation of the FOI Act and that the complainant failed to
prove that such a violation occurred. The
motion to dismiss is hereby denied because the complaint fairly alleges a
violation of the FOI Act (see Perkins v. FOI Commission, 228 Conn. 158,
167 (1993): “It would be unreasonable to deny a member of the public
access to the FOIA simply because of arguable imperfections in the form in
which a request . . . is couched.”) and for the reasons set forth below.
Docket #FIC 2001-319
4. It is found that on
Friday morning June 15, 2001, the respondent board filed with the acting clerk
of the Allingtown Fire District (a political subdivision of the state) a
notice of special meeting to be held at either 3:00 or 3:30 p.m. on Saturday,
June 16, 2001 at the district’s fire house.
5. It is also found that
the acting clerk posted the notice of special meeting on the door to the fire
house and that the clerk’s office is located in the fire house.
It is unclear whether the acting clerk also posted the notice on the
door to the clerk’s office.
6. It is further found
that the fire house was closed to the public on June 15, 2001.
7. In addition, it is
found that some unknown person or persons crossed out the time of the special
meeting on the posted notice of special meeting after attempting to change the
stated time to 2:30 p.m.
8. It is further found
that associates of the complainant arrived at the fire house on June 16, 2001
at approximately 2:45 p.m., that the complainant arrived at approximately 3:00
p.m. and that no meeting of the respondent board occurred while these
individuals were present.
9. It is further found
that the special meeting of the respondent board did convene at between
approximately 3:35 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. on June 16, 2001 and that no one other
than members of the respondent board and their attorney were present.
10. Section 1-225(d), G.S.,
provides in material part:
“Notice of each special meeting of every public agency, except for the General Assembly, either house thereof or any committee thereof, shall be given not less than twenty-four hours prior to the time of such meeting by filing a notice of the time and place thereof in the office . . . of the clerk of such subdivision for any public agency of a political subdivision of the state. . . . The secretary or clerk shall cause any notice received under this section to be posted in his office. Such notice shall be given not less than twenty-four hours prior to the time of the special meeting. . . . The notice shall specify the time and place of the special meeting and the business to be transacted. . . .”
Docket #FIC 2001-319
11. Section 1-225(g), in turn, provides that:
“In determining the time within which or by when a
notice . . . of a special meeting [is] required to be filed under this
section, Saturdays, Sundays, legal holidays and any day on which the office of
the agency, the Secretary of the State or the clerk of the applicable
political subdivision or the clerk of each municipal member of any multitown
district or agency, as the case may be, is closed, shall be excluded.”
12. Although it is clear
that the respondent board attempted to comply with the notice of special
meeting requirements of the FOI Act, it is concluded that it nonetheless
violated §§1-225(d) and (g), G.S., by failing to provide the minimum advance
notice mandated by these sections when it filed notice of the meeting in
question on the Friday preceding the Saturday meeting.
Given the evidence that the fire house where the clerk’s office is
located was closed to the public on the Friday preceding the meeting in
question, there is certainly an additional issue as to when the notice of that
meeting had to have been filed and posted in order to have complied with the
foregoing statutory provisions.
13. The Commission takes
notice of the “Memorandum of Decision Motion To Dismiss:
Mandamus” issued in the case of Sampieri v. Haley, Super. Ct.
JD Ansonia/Milford at Milford, CV01 0074925S, July 23, 2001 (Arnold, J.).
The following is hereby recommended on the basis of the record
concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. In light of the foregoing, no order by the Commission is deemed necessary.
2. The Commission, however, cautions the respondent board to be more mindful of the technical requirements of the FOI Act when it decides to hold a special meeting. In this regard, the Commission urges the respondent to maximize the time within which it provides notice to the public of its special meetings, particularly where, as in this case, the meeting will address a matter of significant interest or controversy within the district. In addition, the Commission urges the respondent board to look into the issues of public access to the district clerk’s office and where notices of meetings will be posted. Obviously, there must be some concern that front door posting may lead to vandalism of any notice, as might have occurred in this instance.
Docket #FIC 2001-319 Page 4
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of September 12, 2001.
Petrea A. Jones
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 2001-319 Page 5
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:
8 Chris-Jon Circle
West Haven, CT 06516
Board of Fire Commissioners,
Allingtown Fire District
c/o Robert E. Arnold, Esq.
412 Orange Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Petrea A. Jones
Acting Clerk of the Commission