OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by
|Docket #FIC 2001-328|
Planning Commission, Town
|November 28, 2001|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 15,
2001, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated
to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the
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(1), G.S.
2. By letter dated and filed July 6, 2001, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents had violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act because they had not “filed” the agenda for the respondent commission’s July 5, 2001 meeting with the town clerk; and that even if the respondents had “filed” the agenda with the town clerk, it was not filed in a timely manner.
3. Section 1-225(c), G.S., provides in relevant part:
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 such subdivision for any public agency of a political subdivision of the state.
4. Section 1-225(g), G.S., further provides in relevant part:
In determining the time within which or by when a notice, agenda, record of votes or minutes of a special meeting or an emergency special meeting are 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.
5. It is found that the respondent commission held a regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. on July 5, 2001.
6. It is further found that the respondent commission’s practice has been to submit its meeting agendas to the New Milford Town Clerk (hereinafter “town clerk”) in advance of its meetings and that the town clerk posts such agendas on a bulletin board in the town clerk’s office, along with the agendas of other town agencies.
7. It is further found that: the respondent commission maintains its own office in the lower level of the New Milford Town Hall; its stated regular office hours are from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday; and that all of its original records are maintained at such office.
8. It is further found that with respect to the agenda for the respondent commission’s July 5, 2001 meeting, such agenda was prepared and on file in the office of the respondent commission at approximately 4:00 p.m. on the afternoon of July 3, 2001.
9. It is further found that the respondent commission’s secretary, its sole employee, neglected to deliver the agenda to the town clerk’s office on July 3, 2001, contrary to the commission’s usual practice; however, the secretary did go to town hall sometime on July 4, 2001, a day on which the New Milford Town Hall was closed due to the Independence Day holiday, and put the agenda for the July 5, 2001 meeting under the door of the town clerk’s office.
10. The complainant maintains that placing the agenda under the door of the town clerk’s office on July 4, 2001 did not meet the requirement that it be “filed”, within the meaning of §1-225(c), G.S.; and further, that even if the agenda were deemed to be filed at that time, the respondents failed to file such notice at least twenty-four hours in advance of the respondent commission’s meeting since §1-225(g), G.S, excludes legal holidays and dates on which the office of the town clerk is closed when calculating the twenty-four hour period within which an agenda is to be filed.
11. The respondents maintain on the other hand, that although it has been, and continues to be, the practice of the respondent commission to file its agendas with the town clerk, it is not required to do so pursuant to §1-225(c), G.S., and that since the respondent commission has a regular office where the agenda was on file at 4:00 p.m. on July 3, 2001, they met the requirements of both §§1-225(c) and (g), G.S.
12. Section 1-225(c), G.S., does not require an agency to file its agendas with the municipal town clerk, unless the agency does not have a regular office or place of business, where the public can access such agendas during regular office hours.
13. At the hearing on this matter, the complainant presented some evidence that problems have existed with regard to access to the respondent commission’s records and that people have complained that they have gone to the respondent commission’s office at different times during its stated hours of operation and it has been closed. In essence, the complainant argued that the respondent commission does not really maintain regular office hours and that the respondent commission’s agendas therefore must be filed with the town clerk. The respondents acknowledged that there have been times when the secretary has closed the office for certain periods of time (e.g., when the secretary leaves for lunch, or has to attend to personal or other matters) but that such closures are minimal and unavoidable due to lack of personnel and budgetary constraints.
14. Although some concerns remain about the lack of accessibility to records at the respondent commission’s office, it is found that there was no evidence presented in this case, that the respondent commission’s office was not open to the public before the end of the office hours on July 3, 2001, at any time on July 5, 2001, or that anyone had attempted to gain access to the July 5, 2001 meeting agenda at the respondent commission’s office and was unable to do so.
15. It is therefore concluded that: the respondents were not
required to file their agenda for the July 5, 2001 meeting with the town
clerk; such agenda was available to the public and filed at the respondent
commission’s office at least twenty-four hours in advance of such meeting
within the meaning of §1-225(g), G.S.; and that the respondents did not
violate the provisions of §1-225(c), G.S., under the facts of this case.
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.
2. The Commission recognizes how, given the respondents’ practice with regard to the submission to and posting of their agendas at the town clerk’s office (which practice presumably was put in place to enhance public access), could lead to confusion and distrust on the part of the public when such practice is not followed. The Commission encourages the respondents to make clear to the public that in the event a meeting agenda is not posted at the town clerk’s office, such agenda will be available at the office of the respondent commission in accordance with the provisions of §1-225(c), G.S. Further, if there are problems concerning access to the records of the respondent commission, as alleged but not proven in this case, the respondents are strongly urged to make every effort to correct such problems to avoid potential future violations of the FOI Act.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of November 28, 2001.
Petrea A. Jones
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:
P.O. Box 603
Town of New Milford
Attention: Gerard J. Monaghan, Chairman
Ten Main Street
New Milford, CT 06776
Petrea A. Jones
Acting Clerk of the Commission