FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Robert LeBlanc,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2004-067

Board of Police Commissioners,

Town of Watertown,

 
  Respondent February 9, 2005
       

           

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 24, 2004, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  The matter was consolidated for hearing with docket #FIC 2004-105, David A. LeBlanc v. Police Commission, Town of Watertown.

 

            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 dated and filed February 11, 2004, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act at its January 14, 2004 meeting by discussing and voting on business that was not on the agenda for that meeting, by failing to make available the “motion sheet” or record of vote within the time required by the FOI Act, and by requiring attendees to log in before being allowed into the meeting room.

 

3.  It is found that the respondent held a regular meeting at the Watertown police station on January 14, 2004.

 

4.  At the hearing on this matter, the parties stipulated that the respondent discussed and voted on business that was not on the agenda for the January 14, 2004 meeting.

 

5.  Section 1-225(c), G.S., provides:


 

      The agenda of the regular meetings of every public agency, except for the General Assembly, 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 Secretary of the State for any such public agency of the state, in the office of the clerk of such subdivision for any public agency of a political subdivision of the state or in the office of the clerk of each municipal member of any multitown district or agency.  Upon the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of a public agency present and voting, any subsequent business not included in such filed agendas may be considered and acted upon at such meetings.

 

6.  It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-225(c), G.S., by considering and acting upon business that was not included in its filed agenda, and not added to the agenda by a two-thirds vote.

 

7.  At the hearing on this matter, the parties also stipulated that the “motion sheet” or record of votes on motions made at the January 14, 2004 meeting was not available as of February 11, 2004.

 

8.  Section 1-225(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:

 

The votes of each member of any such public agency upon any issue before such public agency shall be reduced to writing and made available for public inspection within

 

forty-eight hours and shall also be recorded in the minutes of the session at which taken, which minutes shall be available for public inspection within seven days of the session to which they refer.

 

9.  It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-225(a), G.S., by failing to make the record of votes for the January 14, 2004 meeting available for inspection within forty-eight hours of the meeting.

 

10.  With respect to the complainant’s allegation that attendees at the January 14, 2004 meeting were required to log in before being allowed into the meeting room, it is found that the respondent’s log-in policy requires members of the public to provide their name in order to gain entry into the locked meeting room for the respondent’s meetings.  Although the log is maintained by the Police Department, and all individuals are required to log in before entering the police station, the policy of requiring individuals to log in before attending the respondent’s meetings is the respondent’s own.

 

            11.  Section 1-225(e), G.S., provides: “No member of the public shall be required, as a condition to attendance at a meeting of any such body, to register the member’s name, or furnish other information, or complete a questionnaire or otherwise fulfill any condition precedent to the member’s attendance.”

 

12.  In Docket #FIC 95-366, Michael L. Roy et al. v. Chairman, State of Connecticut, Board of Parole et al., the Commission found that the Department of Correction denied visitors access to meetings of the Board of Parole because the visitors failed to submit in writing their names and birth dates to prison officials at least twenty-four hours in advance, so that a criminal background check could be performed on each individual.  The Commission concluded in that case that the admittance requirement was a reasonable security measure, and that denial of physical access to a correctional facility for failure to comply with a reasonable security measure, under the facts of that case, was not a violation of any provision of the FOI Act.

 

13.  The respondent maintains that, in this case, the log is also a reasonable security measure.

 

14.  It is found that the log-in policy has been only intermittently applied at the Watertown Police Department: a log-in policy apparently was in effect prior to July, 2000; was rescinded on July 19, 2000; and was reinstituted on January 14, 2004.

 

15.  It is found that the log-in policy has been applied inconsistently to attendees at the respondent’s meetings, even at times when the policy was apparently in effect.  Specifically, it is found that individuals attended meetings at times the log-in policy was in effect without being logged into the building.

 

16.  It is found that the log-in policy is not necessary to prevent access to areas of the police department building other than the meeting room.  Individuals who were logged in at the times of the respondent’s meetings were only admitted to the meeting room, not any other secured area of the police department, and all doors from the meeting room to other parts of the facility could be locked.

 

17.  It is found that the log-in policy is not effective, as compared to the security measures taken in Roy v. Board of Parole, above.  Specifically, it is found that the respondent cannot know whether an unfamiliar individual who ostensibly logs in is giving a correct name, and that the mere provision of a name is a negligible security precaution.

 

18.  It is found that, unlike Roy v. Board of Parole, above, the respondent need not meet in a secure area or building.

 

19.  It is concluded that the requirement that visitors log in before attending the respondent’s meetings is not a reasonable security measure, within the meaning of Roy v. Board of Parole, above.

 

20.  It is therefore concluded that the respondent violated 1-225(e), G.S., by requiring members of the public to furnish their names as a condition precedent to their entering the respondent’s meeting room.

 

21.  The complainant urges the Commission to order the respondent to hold its meetings at another site.

 

22.  In support of his argument, the complainant points out that the respondent has in the past sometimes met at the town hall annex.  

 

23.  The respondent maintains that it is helpful to it to hold its meetings at the Police Department, since the respondent deals with Police Department business.

 

24.  While the complainant’s suggestion that the respondent conduct its meetings at a location that does not raise security issues has merit, the Commission declines to order the respondent to conduct its meetings at any particular location.

 

 

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 desist from requiring members of the public to furnish their names as a condition precedent to their entering the respondent’s meeting room.

 

2.  Henceforth the respondent shall strictly comply with the requirements of 1-225(a), (c), and (e), G.S.

 

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of February 9, 2005.

 

________________________________

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:

 

Robert LeBlanc

78 Highland Avenue

Watertown, CT 06795

 

Board of Police Commissioners,

Town of Watertown

c/o Paul R. Jessell, Esq.

Slavin, Stauffacher & Scott, LLC

680 Main Street

PO Box 9

Watertown, CT 06795

 

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2004-067FD/paj/2/9/2005