FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Ken Sweet,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2004-063

Board of Directors, Northwest Connecticut Public

Safety Communication Center Inc.,

 
  Respondent November 10, 2004
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 15, 2004, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  For purposes of hearing, contested case docket # FIC 2004-156, Ken Sweet v. Northwest Connecticut Public Safety Communication Center Inc., was consolidated with the above-captioned case. 

 

            After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:

 

1.  It is found that by letter January 12, 2004, the complainant, an employee of the respondent, requested that the respondent’s business administrator provide him with a copy of the minutes of the respondent’s board of directors (“board of directors”) meetings for the past eighteen months, and any and all paperwork/reports (“reports”) that were reviewed pertaining to the topics discussed at the meetings in question.

 

2.  It is found that by memorandum dated January 14, 2004, the business administrator provided the complainant with a copy of the requested minutes however, she denied the request with respect to the reports.

 

3.  Having failed to receive a copy of the reports, the complainant, by letter dated February 6, 2004, and filed on February 9, 2004, appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by denying him a copy of the reports.

 

4.  At the hearing in this matter, the complainant clarified that what he wants is a copy of a report from the respondent’s Business Director, which was attached to the board of director’s meeting minutes of September 30, 2003 (hereinafter “report”).

 

5.  The respondent’s position is that it is not a “public agency” and therefore, not subject to the FOI Act.

 

6.  Section 1-200(1)(A), G.S., provides:

 

(1)  “Public agency” or “agency” means: (A) Any executive, administrative or legislative office of the state or any political subdivision of the state and any state or town agency, any department, institution, bureau, board, commission, authority or official of the state or of any city, town, borough, municipal corporation, school district, regional district or other district or other political subdivision of the state, including any committee of, or created by, any such office, subdivision, agency, department, institution, bureau, board, commission, authority or official, and also includes any judicial office, official, or body or committee thereof but only with respect to its or their administrative functions.

 

7.  It is concluded that the respondent is not a public agency within the meaning of 1-200(1)(A), G.S.

 

8.  However, 1-200(1)(B), G.S., provides, in relevant part:

 

“Public agency” or “agency” means: …Any person to the extent such person is deemed to be the functional equivalent of a public agency pursuant to law….

 

9.  The test for determining whether an entity such as the respondent is the functional equivalent of a public agency within the meaning of 1-200(a)(1), G.S., is set forth in Board of Trustees of Woodstock Academy v. FOI Commission, 181 Conn. 544 (1980), and consists of the following four criteria:

 

(a)  whether the entity performs a governmental function;
(b)  the level of government funding;
(c)  the extent of government involvement or regulation; and

(d)  whether the entity was created by government.

 

10.  The Supreme Court in Connecticut Humane Society v. FOI Commission, 218 Conn. 757, 761 (1991), advocated a case by case application of the Woodstock criteria, and established that all four of the foregoing criteria are not necessary for a finding of “functional equivalence.”  Rather “[a]ll relevant factors are to be considered cumulatively, with no single factor being essential or conclusive.”

 

11.  With respect to whether the respondent performs a government function, it is found that the respondent performs two major functions.  First, the respondent is the Centralized Medical Emergency Dispatch center servicing twenty-one communities in Connecticut.  In this regard, the respondent for example, facilitates direct communication between paramedics and area hospitals so that paramedics and doctors are in direct contact with each other.  Second, the respondent performs the primary 911 function for six communities in Connecticut.  The respondent also serves as the secondary 911 point of contact for one community in Connecticut.  As the primary 911 contact, the respondent answers all 911 calls, and as the secondary 911 contact, the respondent receives calls typically referred to the respondent by entities such as the police. 

12.  Section 28-25a(b), G.S., requires that "[E]ach municipality shall, not later than December 31, 1989, establish and operate a public safety answering point which utilizes enhanced 911 network features."

13. Section 28-25(10), G.S., defines "public safety answering point" as:

a facility, operated on a twenty-four-hour basis, assigned the responsibility of receiving 911 calls and, as appropriate, directly dispatching emergency response services, or transferring or relaying emergency 911 calls to other public safety agencies. A public safety answering point is the first point of reception by a public safety agency of a 911 call and serves the jurisdictions in which it is located or other participating jurisdictions.

14. It is found that the respondent is the public safety answering point for the communities it serves, within the meaning of 28-25(10) and 28-25a(b), G.S.

15.  It is also found that the two major functions described in paragraph 11, above, if not performed by the respondent, would have to be undertaken by the municipalities and communities served by the respondent.

 

16.  It is concluded that the respondent performs an integral government function.

17. With respect to the level of government funding the respondent receives, it is found that nearly one hundred per cent of the respondent’s funding is received from government.  Approximately sixty per cent of the respondent’s revenues are generated from the State of Connecticut’s 911 fund, administered by the Department of Public Safety (“DPS”), Office of Statewide Emergency Telecommunications.  Approximately thirty per cent of the respondent’s revenues come from billing the municipalities and communities it serves.  The remaining ten percent of the respondent’s revenues are generated by services it performs for certain rescue organizations such as the Connecticut Canine Search and Rescue and The Connecticut Board of Parole.  It is also found that the respondent received a one-time grant from the State of Connecticut in 1990 which funds were used to pay for the building, which currently houses the respondent.  It is also found that prior to 1990, one municipality, Waterbury, provided the facility, which housed the respondent at that time, in exchange for in-kind services.

18.  It is concluded that the level of government funding to the respondent is substantial.

19.  With respect to the extent of government involvement or regulation, it is found that the respondent is subject to a variety of state laws regulating emergency telecommunications as provided in Chapter 518a, G.S.  It is found that the respondent submits documentation annually to the DPS to demonstrate that the respondent has used the funds received from the DPS appropriately and within the guidelines for use of DPS 911 funds, described in paragraph 15, above.  It is found that the DPS requires emergency 911 training and certification for the respondent’s emergency medical dispatch personnel.  It is found that the respondent provides each community served with the respondent’s annual budget and audit.  It is also found that the respondent is run by a board of directors, which membership consists of a representative from each town or community served by the respondent.  The chief executive officer of the community served appoints a representative to the board of directors. 

20.  It is concluded that the extent of government involvement with, and regulation of, the respondent, is substantial.

 

21.  With respect to whether the respondent was created by government, it is found that the respondent is organized as a private, non-stock, non-profit corporation, incorporated in Connecticut in 1981.  However, it is found that the respondent’s predecessor, as did many other similarly situated entities throughout the United States, actually came into existence when the federal government recognized a need during the 1970s to improve emergency services on the nation’s highways and such entities were the beneficiaries of federal grants. 

 

22.  It is found that during the mid to late 1970s the respondent, and similar entities, were provided with “new free radios” by the federal government, which radios enhanced emergency communications throughout the nation’s communities.  Then in the 1980s municipalities were required to upgrade their 911 communications systems.  Many municipalities, as were the municipalities now served by the respondent, were overwhelmed with providing the required 911 communications services, and the respondent assumed the responsibility to provide such services to these communities.  Initially, the respondent provided 911 services for one community and over time has grown to provide services to seven communities, as described in paragraph 11, above.   

23. It is concluded that the respondent, although not exclusively created by government, was created in the 1970s as a result of a partnering of public and private initiatives to enhance emergency communication services.

24.  Based on the totality of the factors considered, it is concluded that the respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-200(1)(B), G.S., and is therefore, subject to the FOI Act.[1] 

 

25.  Section 1-210(a), G.S., provides, in relevant part:

 

Except as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute, all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency, whether or not such records are required by any law or by any rule or regulation, shall be public records and every person shall have the right to (1) inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours, (2) copy such records in accordance with subsection (g) of section 1-212, or (3) receive a copy of such records in accordance with section 1-212.  Any agency rule or regulation, or part thereof, that conflicts with the provisions of this subsection or diminishes or curtails in any way the rights granted by this subsection shall be void.

 

26.  It is found that the respondent maintains the report that is at issue in this case. 

 

27.  It is concluded that the report is a public record, within the meaning of 1-210(a), G.S.

 

28.  The respondent makes no claim that the report is exempt from disclosure.

 

29.  Consequently, it is concluded that the respondent violated 1-210(a), G.S., when it failed to provide the complainant with a copy of the report in question.  

 

The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:

1.  Forthwith, the respondent shall provide the complainant with a copy of the report, as described in paragraph 4, of the findings, above.

 

 

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of November 10, 2004.

 

________________________________

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:

 

Ken Sweet

219 Fieldwood Road

Waterbury, CT 06704

 

Board of Directors, Northwest Connecticut Public

Safety Communication Center Inc.

c/o Mark G. Ouellette, Esq.

Ouellette & Senich, LLC

390 Middlebury Road

Middlebury, CT 06762

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2004-063FD/paj/11/15/2004

 

 

 



[1] Although a case by case application of the Woodstock criteria is advocated, and was applied in this case, it is instructive to note that this Commission has previously found entities similar to the respondent to be the functional equivalent of public agencies.  See, e.g., H. Sean Hoskins v. Jess McMinn, President, Colchester Emergency Communications, Inc., and Colchester Emergency Communications, Inc., docket #FIC 1996-299 (1997).