FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

Kevin McCallum and

The Stamford Advocate,

 
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2003-438

Board of Trustees of the City of Stamford Policemen’s

Pension Trust Fund, and Board of Trustees of the 

City of Stamford Firemen’s Pension Trust Fund,

 
  Respondents  November 19, 2004
       

 

            The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 6 and June 10, 2004, at which times the complainants and the respondents appeared, and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. The caption above has been amended to reflect the legal name of the respondents.

 

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

 

            1.  It is found that the respondent Board of Trustees of the City of Stamford Policemen’s Pension Trust Fund [hereinafter “police pension board”] held a meeting on November 11, 2003, from which the public was excluded.  It is also found that the respondent Board of Trustees of the City of Stamford Firemen’s Pension Trust Fund [hereinafter “fire pension board”] held a meeting on December 2, 2003, from which the public was excluded. 

           

2.   By letter dated December 3, 2003 and filed on December 10, 2003, and supplemented by letter dated January 3, 2004 and filed on January 8, 2004, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information [hereinafter “FOI”] Act by excluding them from the meetings described in paragraph 1, above.  The complainants also alleged a denial of their request to receive copies of the police pension board’s meeting minutes and expense records.  However, at the hearing in this matter, the complainants did not pursue the allegation regarding their records request.  Accordingly, such allegation shall not be further addressed herein.

           

            3.  The respondent police pension board first contends that the complaint against it was not timely filed, since the complainants’ request to attend the November 11, 2003 meeting described in paragraph 1, above, was denied one week prior to such meeting, and more than thirty days before the complaint in this matter was filed. 

 

4.  Section 1-206(b)(1), G.S., provides that:

 

“[a]ny person denied the right to inspect or copy records under section 1-210 or wrongfully denied the right to attend any meeting of a public agency or denied any other right conferred by the [FOI] Act may appeal therefrom to the [FOI] Commission, by filing a notice of appeal with said commission.  A notice of appeal shall be filed within thirty days after such denial….”

 

5.  It is concluded, however, that denial of access to a meeting occurs when the meeting takes place, even if notification of a prospective denial is delivered earlier.  Therefore, with respect to the alleged denial of access to the police pension board meeting, it is found that such denial occurred on November 11, 2003, within thirty days of the filing of the complaint herein.  Accordingly, the Commission has jurisdiction to address such allegation.

 

            6.  Section 1-225(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that: “[t]he meetings of all public agencies, except executive sessions, as defined in subdivision (6) of section 1-200, shall be open to the public…”

 

7.  Each respondent contends that it is not a public agency, within the meaning of the FOI Act, and that therefore their meetings and records are not subject to the requirements of the FOI Act. [1]

 

8.  Section 1-200(1), G.S., defines “public agency” to mean:

 

“(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;

 

(B) Any person to the extent such person is deemed to be the functional equivalent of a public agency pursuant to law; or

 

(C) Any “implementing agency,” as defined in section 32-222.”

           

9.   The respondents each contend that, since they are not among the appointed and elected boards listed in the Stamford City Charter [hereinafter “the charter”], they are not “public agencies” pursuant to 1-200(1)(A), G.S. 

 

10.  It is found that the charter lists appointed and elected boards and commissions in part 6 thereof, and that the respondents are not contained within such list.

 

11.   It is also found, however, that in part 7 of the charter, the police pension fund and the firefighters pension fund are established, and that the charter provides that the Director of Legal Affairs for the City may prepare declarations of trust for the trustees of such pension plans.   Moreover, the 1915 Stamford City Charter, with amendments to 1927, established the “board of trustees of the police benefit fund,” and “board of trustees of the firemen’s relief fund,” precursors of the respondents.  It is found that administration of government pension funds has long been performed by public agencies, and that a search of the administrative records of the Commission reveals no other government pension board which has contested the jurisdiction of this Commission.  See, e.g., Docket # FIC 2001-069; Mark S. D’Onofrio and Orange Police Union, International Brotherhood of Police Officers, Local #349 v. Pension Board, Town of Orange (April 25, 2001); Docket #FIC 1999-168; Thomas F. Callahan v. Town Council, Town of Enfield; Pension Review Commission, Town of Enfield; and Town of Enfield (Oct. 27, 1999); Docket #FIC 1996-321; Rudolf J. Weiss v. Chairman, Pension Board, Town of Stratford; and Pension Board, Town of Stratford (June 11, 1997); see also 5-155a, G.S. (establishing the Connecticut State Employees Retirement Commission, the state board which administers the pension plan for state employees). 

 

12.  It is found that the respondents are boards of the city of Stamford, and thus are public agencies within the meaning of 1-200(1)(A), G.S.  

 

13.  Consequently, it is concluded that the respondent police pension board violated 1-225(a), G.S., when it excluded the public from its November 11, 2003 meeting and that the respondent fire pension board violated 1-225(a), G.S. when it excluded the public from its December 2, 2003 meeting, as alleged in the complaint.  

 

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

 

            1.  Henceforth, the respondents shall comply with the provisions of 1-225(a), G.S. 

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of November 19, 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:

 

Kevin McCallum and

The Stamford Advocate

c/o John Lucas

75 Tresser Boulevard

PO Box 9307

Stamford, CT 06904

 

Board of Trustees of the City of Stamford Policemen’s

Pension Trust Fund

c/o Anthony M. Macleod, Esq.

Whitman Breed Abbott & Morgan LLC

100 Field Point Road

PO Box 2250

Greenwich, CT 06830

 

Board of Trustees of the 

City of Stamford Firemen’s Pension Trust Fund

c/o Daniel P. Murphy, Esq.

Siegel, O’Connor, Zangari,

O’Donnell & Beck, P.C.

150 Trumbull Street

Hartford, CT 06103

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2003-438FD/paj/11/22/2004

 

 

                                                                                     



[1]  While not admitting that they are public agencies, each respondent stipulated at the hearing in this matter that it has been voluntarily complying with the provisions of the FOI Act since early 2004.