OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|M. James Lively,|
|against||Docket #FIC 2002-187|
Mary Moran, Chairman, Police Commission,
Town of Trumbull,
|Respondents||November 13, 2002|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 30, 2002, at which time the complainant and the respondent 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 respondent is a public agency within the meaning of §1-200(1)(A), G.S.
2. By letter dated and filed with the Freedom of Information Commission (“Commission” or sometimes the “FOI Commission”) on April 25, 2002, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) by denying, on April 11, 2002, his April 4, 2002 request for minutes of an unnoticed meeting of the Police Commission of the Town of Trumbull. The complainant requested the imposition of civil penalties.
3. It is found that, on or about March 2, 2002, the respondent Chairman asked the Vice Chairman, Commissioner John Riordan, to canvass or poll the Police Commission members concerning whether they approved funding James Lively’s position as a Lieutenant in the upcoming budget. Commissioner John Riordan indicated that he would make the necessary telephone calls.
4. It is found that, pursuant to the respondent Chairman’s request, on or about March 3, 2002, Vice Chairman Riordan separately telephoned Commissioners Lino Constantini and David Wilson, in order to pose the question of funding Mr. Lively in the budget. Vice Chairman Riordan also sent an email to Commissioner Ann Moore concerning the same subject matter.
5. It is further found that, on or about March 3, 2002, Commissioner John Riordan reported back to the respondent that Commissioners Constantini and Wilson would agree to fund Mr. Lively as a Lieutenant. Commissioner Moore did not respond to the email request for her views.
6. It is further found that, on or about March 4, 2002, the respondent composed a memo to the Chairman of the Board of Finance, advising him that there was a “consensus of the majority of the Police Commission to fund James Lively in the position of a Lieutenant at the Lieutenant’s salary in this current budget.”
7. It is further found that no public notice was filed in the town clerk’s office concerning the above described serial telephone meeting of four members of the Police Commission, and no agenda, votes or minutes were filed prior to the filing of the complaint with the FOI Commission on April 25, 2002.
8. It is further found that the Police Commission was comprised of six members at the time of the unnoticed telephone meeting, with the result that four members constituted a quorum. Accordingly, a quorum of the Police Commission (Commissioners Moran, Riordan, Constantini and Wilson) participated in the unnoticed serial telephone meeting on or about March 3, 2002.
9. It is also found that, working with the Chief of Police, the Police Commission formulates a proposed budget for the Police Department and also presents this proposed budget to the Board of Finance. However, the Police Commission does not formally vote to adopt its proposed budget for the Police Department.
10. It is found that the complainant requested minutes of the unnoticed telephone meeting on April 4, 2002, and that on April 11, 2002 the respondent denied his request, stating: “there was no meeting of the Commission, therefore there are no minutes.”
11. Finally, it is found that, after the complaint was filed with the Commission on April 25, 2002, the respondent sponsored a motion at the Police Commission meeting of May 14, 2002 for “the record [to] reflect that a previous consensus by this Commission to include a fifth Lieutenant’s position in the budget possibly violated FOI regulations.” A motion to fund a fifth Lieutenant’s position carried four to one and was duly recorded in the minutes of the May 14, 2002 meeting.
12. It is concluded that the Police Commission had “supervision” and at least “advisory power” over the “matter” of the preparation of the Police Department budget, as the quoted terms are used in the definition of “meeting” at §1-200(2), G.S. Moreover, this FOIA definition of “meeting” expressly includes a convening “by means of electronic equipment”.
13. It is concluded that the respondent convened an unnoticed serial telephone meeting of the Police Commission on or about March 3, 2002, and also failed to file an agenda, votes or minutes pertaining to such meeting, all in violation of the open meeting requirements of §1-225, G.S.
14. It is therefore concluded that the respondent violated §1-225, G.S., when she failed to make minutes “available for public inspection within seven days of the session to which they refer.”
15. It is also concluded that the May 14, 2002 discussion, as reflected in the minutes, and subsequent motion did not accurately memorialize the majority agreement of the Police Commission on or about March 3, 2002 “to fund James Lively in the position of a Lieutenant at the Lieutenant’s salary”.
16. Finally, it is concluded that, particularly in view of the fact that the respondent was new in her duties at the time of the events at issue herein, a civil penalty is not warranted.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. Within seven days, the respondent shall mail to the complainant accurate minutes of the unnoticed March 3, 2002 Police Commission meeting, as described at paragraph 6 above. Henceforth the respondent shall comply with the letter and the spirit of the open meeting requirements of §1-225, G.S.
2. The Commission commends the respondent for her forthright testimony before the Commission. Nonetheless, attention should be given, in conjunction with other public agencies of the town, to improved compliance with Freedom of Information requirements. Appropriate compliance will help the Town of Trumbull to avoid costly, time-consuming adjudication at the FOIC.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of November 13, 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:
M. James Lively
581 Whitney Avenue
Trumbull, CT 06611
Mary Moran, Chairman,
Town of Trumbull
c/o Vito Mazza, Esq.
PO Box 542
Trumbull, CT 06611
Petrea A. Jones
Acting Clerk of the Commission