FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

William Poirier and A. Robert

Zannotti,

 
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2005-002

Conservation and Inland Wetlands

Commission, Town of Thompson,

 
  Respondent October 11, 2005
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 9, 2005, at which time the complainants 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), G.S.

 

2.  By letter of complaint, dated December 24, 2004, and filed on January 3, 2005, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by:

 

a.                            effectively denying them access to attend and hear discussions at the respondent’s meeting of December 14, 2004 as the meeting room could not adequately accommodate those persons, including the complainants, who had business before the respondent; and

b.                            discussing letters from the complainants’ attorney in private, and taking a position with respect to the issues raised in the letters although no discussions or resolutions concerning such issues took place or were voted on in public.

 

In their complaint, the complainants requested that the Commission impose a civil penalty upon the respondent.

 

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

 

The meetings of all public agencies, except executive sessions, as defined in subdivision (6) of section 1-200, shall be open to the public.

 

4.  With respect to the allegation, as described in paragraph 2a, above, it is found that the respondent held a regular meeting on December 14, 2004 (hereinafter “meeting”).

 

5.  It is found that the meeting was held in a conference room at the Wetlands office.

 

6.  It is found that members of the public who had business before the respondent sat outside the hallway, by the entrance to the conference room, not because they were asked to, or required to by the respondent, but apparently from prior practice.  It is found that the door leading to the entrance of the conference room was open at all times during the meeting.

 

7.  It is found that, as the name of each individual who had business before the respondent was called, such individual entered the conference room.  It is found that it is not unusual that individuals with business before the respondent, particularly those with easels for their presentations, sit just outside the conference room, and engage in a discussion among themselves but listening out for their names to be called by the respondent when their turn to make their presentation arrives.

 

8.  It is also found that it is not unusual for engineers or ordinary citizens to simply walk into the conference room, at any given time, and sit there during the respondent’s meetings.

 

9.  It is also found that if an “applicant” is not present in the meeting room at the time their item comes up on the agenda, or their name is called, the respondent’s secretary, as a courtesy, goes out into the hallway and looks for them.     

 

10.  It is found that the meeting at issue was the first meeting of the respondent attended by the complainants.

 

11.  It is also found that the meeting room, although by no means spacious, had a few available seats at the time the complainants sat in the hallway just outside of the conference room.

 

12.  It is found that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, the respondent did not exclude the complainants from the meeting, and that there was no attempt on the part of the respondent to exclude the public from attending such meeting.

 

13.  Consequently, it is concluded that the respondent did not violate the FOI Act with respect to the December 14, 2004 meeting, as alleged in the complaint.

 

14.  With respect to the allegation as described in paragraph 2b, above, it is found that the complainants did not address this issue at the hearing in this matter, and therefore, failed to provide any evidence that the respondent held discussions in private 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.  The complaint is hereby dismissed.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of October 11, 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:

 

William Poirier and

A. Robert Zannotti

Greene Acres Association, Inc.

Seven Island View Terrace

Thompson, CT 06277-2419

 

Conservation and Inland Wetlands

Commission, Town of Thompson

c/o Ernest J. Cotnoir, Esq.

PO Box 187

Putnam, CT 06260

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2005-002FD/paj/10/13/2005