OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|against||Docket #FIC 2002-396|
Board of Aldermen,
City of Waterbury,
|Respondents||October 23, 2002|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 27, 2002, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. The following contested cases were consolidated with the above-captioned matter for purposes of hearing: docket #s FIC 2002-392, Lawrence V. DePillo v. Board of Aldermen, City of Waterbury; FIC 2002-393, James D. Szynkiewicz v. Board of Aldermen, City of Waterbury; 2002-394, Edward J. Bukoski v. Board of Aldermen, City of Waterbury; 2002-395, Philip J. Sirignano v. Board of Aldermen, City of Waterbury; 2002-412, Kathleen McNamara v. Board of Aldermen, City of Waterbury; and 2002-413, Andre Michaud v. Board of Aldermen, City of Waterbury.
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 of complaint, dated August 29, 2002, and filed with the Commission on September 5, 2002, the complainant appealed, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by:
a. failing to give notice, and to specify, the business to be transacted at the respondent’s August 27, 2002 meeting, in connection with the final questions voted upon for an upcoming November referendum concerning revising the city charter;
b. conducting business regarding the questions when such questions were not included in the August 27, 2002 meeting notice; and
c. failing to make the questions available to the public or press prior to the meeting, and within twenty-four hours of the meeting.
The complainant requested in her complaint that the respondent’s vote in connection with the referendum questions be declared null and void.
3. It is found that the respondent held a special meeting on August 27, 2002 during which it voted to accept the Proposed Revised Charter submitted by the Charter Revision Commission as well as certain draft questions recommended by such Commission to be used during an upcoming November referendum in connection with the Proposed Revised Charter.
4. With respect to the allegations described at paragraph 2a and 2b, above, §1-225(d), G.S., provides, in relevant part, that:
Notice of each special meeting of every public agency …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 notice shall specify the time and place of the special meeting and the business to be transacted. No other business shall be considered at such meetings by such public agency.
5. It is found that notice of the August 27, 2002 meeting was filed on August 20, 2002 and such notice states in relevant part:
J. Paul Vance Jr., Laura J. Nesta, Rose M. Blazek, Michael T. D’Occhio, Frank A. Burgio, Sr., Paul Pernerewski, Jr., Barbara A. Morcey, Nicholas J. Parillo, Peter K. Tirado, Paul Nogeria, Giuseppe N. Pisani, Deborah T. Lewis, Lisa E. Mason, Brain J. Mongelluzzo, and William J. Pizzuto, the [respondent] …[will] meet in Special Session …for the purpose of acting on the following:
7. Paul Pernerewski, Jr. RE: Receipt of the Final Draft
Chairman Report of the Charter
Charter Revision Revision Commission 2002
6. It is found that the “Final Draft Report of the Charter Revision Commission 2002”, referenced in item 7 of the notice, consists of the Proposed Revised Charter document (containing the substantive changes to the city charter) as well as an August 14, 2002 report, in letter form, which summarizes the charter review process, the proposed revisions to the charter document, certain Aldermanic recommendations reviewed but not included in the Proposed Revised Charter document, other issues for the next Charter Review Commission and certain recommended questions that would be placed on the ballot in November 2002 that pertain to the substantive changes being proposed to the charter document by the Charter Revision Commission.
7. It is the recommended questions, described in paragraph 6, above, that are at the heart of the complainant’s complaint. The complainant contends that notice of the August 27, 2002 meeting did not include or specify that the recommended questions would be considered and finalized by vote of the respondent. The respondent, on the other hand, contends that the “Final Draft Report” as noticed includes the recommended questions and therefore, it was appropriate for the respondent to discuss and vote to accept both the Proposed Revised Charter document as well as such recommended questions.
8. It is concluded that the notice of the August 27, 2002 meeting sufficiently specified the business to be transacted within the meaning of §1-225(d), G.S., in that such notice adequately apprised anyone interested in the charter review process that the respondent intended to take action or finalize issues with respect to charter revision in Waterbury. It is also found that the final Draft Report submitted by the Charter Revision Commission on August 14, 2002 clearly consisted not only of the charter document itself but also the August 14, 2002 report (in letter form), already described in detail in paragraph 6, above, which contained recommended questions to be placed on the November 2002 ballot.
9. It is therefore concluded that the notice filed by the respondent with the city clerk in connection with the August 27, 2002 special meeting did not violate the requirements of §1-225(d), G.S.
10. With respect to the allegation as described in paragraph 2c, above, it is found that the original wording of the questions at issue was filed with the city clerk’s office on August 14, 2002 and therefore, available for public inspection and copying as of that date. However, it is found that the wording of the questions ultimately voted upon by the respondent at the August 27, 2002 meeting was different in some respects from the original wording, and was not filed with the city clerk’s office until 3:10 p.m. on August 27, 2002. The complainant therefore contends that the final wording of the questions was not available within twenty-four hours of the August 27, 2002 meeting. This is true, and although would certainly be in keeping with the spirit of the FOI Act, there is no requirement in the FOI Act that records be made available within twenty-four hours of a public meeting. The FOI Act provides at §1-210(a), G.S., that “[a]ll records maintained or kept on file by any public agency … shall be public records and every person shall have the right to inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours or to receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-212.” Section 1-212(a), G.S., further provides that: “[a]ny person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record.” The record does not indicate that either the complainant, any member of the public or the press requested and was denied a copy of the version of the questions ultimately voted on by the respondent. In the absence of such a request there can be no denial.
11. It is therefore concluded that since no request for the questions at issue was made or directed to the respondent by the complainant then the respondent did not violate the FOI Act as alleged in the complaint.
12. The complainant’s request for a null and void remedy is therefore denied.
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 October 23, 2002.
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:
c/o William M. Bloss, Esq.
350 Orange Street
PO Box 606
New Haven, CT 06503-0606
Board of Aldermen,
City of Waterbury
c/o Dan Shaban, Esq.
Office of the Corporation Counsel
236 Grand Street
Waterbury, CT 06702
Petrea A. Jones
Acting Clerk of the Commission