OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|David A. LeBlanc,|
|against||Docket #FIC 2004-105|
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 2004-067, Robert 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 March 1, 2004, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act at its February 24, 2004 meeting by discussing and voting on business that was not on the agenda for that meeting, by requiring attendees to log in before being allowed into the meeting room, and by permitting the town attorney to give an opinion on a matter that was not on the agenda for the meeting.
3. It is found that the respondent held a special meeting at the Watertown police station on February 24, 2004, all of which was held in open session.
4. It is found that the only item on the agenda for that meeting was the use of stop signs for speed control.
5. It is found that the respondent received a legal opinion from its town attorney regarding the use of stop signs for speed control, received public comment on the issue, and discussed the issue extensively.
6. It is found that in the course of that discussion and public comment, there was very limited and superficial discussion of the personnel cost of alternative methods of speed control.
7. The complainant maintains that he was not prepared for a discussion of the budget, and that the budget was not on the agenda for the meeting.
8. 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.
9. It is found that the limited discussion of the personnel cost of alternative methods of speed control was not a separate discussion of the budget, but a natural incident of the respondent’s discussion of the use of stop signs for speed control, and did not constitute subsequent business not included in the respondent’s filed agenda, within the meaning of §1-225(c), G.S.
10. With respect to the complainant’s allegation that the town attorney was permitted to give an opinion at the February 24, 2004 meeting regarding a matter that was not on the agenda for that meeting, it is found that the respondent, following its extensive discussion of the use of stop signs for speed control, asked its town attorney for procedural advice concerning whether the respondent could vote on a motion to remove stop signs that had been erected for speed control, and the town attorney gave his opinion.
11. It is found that the asking for and receiving of an opinion from the town attorney regarding the respondent’s procedure was not a separate discussion, but a natural incident of the respondent’s discussion of the use of stop signs for speed control, and did not constitute subsequent business not included in the respondent’s filed agenda, within the meaning of §1-225(c), G.S.
12. It is concluded that the respondent did not violate §1-225(c), G.S.
13. With respect to the complainant’s allegation that attendees at the February 24, 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.
14. 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.”
15. 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.
16. The respondent maintains that, in this case, the log is also a reasonable security measure.
17. 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.
18. 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.
19. 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.
20. 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 individuals who log in are giving correct names, and that the mere provision of a name is a negligible security precaution.
21. It is found that, unlike Roy v. Board of Parole, above, the respondent need not meet in a secure area or building.
22. It is concluded that the requirement that visitors log in to the police department before attending the respondent’s meetings is not a reasonable security measure, within the meaning of Roy v. Board of Parole, above.
23. 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 attendance at the respondent’s meetings.
24. The complainant urges the Commission to order the respondent to hold its meetings at another site, one that does not require security precautions.
25. In support of his argument, the complainant points out that the respondent has in the past sometimes met at the town hall annex.
26. 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.
27. 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. The complaint is dismissed with respect to the allegations concerning the taking up of business not on the respondent’s agenda for the February 24, 2004 meeting.
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:
David A. LeBlanc
223 Middlebury Road
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