FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Stephen R. Borer,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2006-024

Robin Brady Boxwell, Borough

Clerk, Borough of Woodmont,

 
  Respondent January 10, 2007
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 2, 2006, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts 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.      It is found that, by letter dated January 4, 2006, the complainant requested that the respondent provide him with a copy of the following records, which shall hereinafter be referenced as “the requested records”:

 

a.  minutes of the December 5, 2005, and January 3, 2006, Borough of Woodmont [hereinafter “the borough”] meetings; 

 

b.  the executive session minutes of the meeting wherein the borough discussed returning salaries;

 

c.  a current e-mail address list, consisting of all individuals who receive borough minutes and notices via the internet. 

 

    3.  It is found that, on behalf of the respondent, the borough warden sent to the complainant the December 5, 2005, minutes described in paragraph 2.a, above, via e-mail dated January 8, 2006.  It is further found, however, that the complainant was unable to open such e-mail file on his computer.

 

      4.  By letter dated January 16, 2006 and filed on January 19, 2006, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the “FOI” Act by failing to comply with the request described in paragraph 2, above.  The complainant requested the imposition of civil penalties against the respondent.  

 

5.  Section 1-200(5), G.S., defines “public records” to mean: 

 

“…any recorded data or information relating to the conduct of the public's business prepared, owned, used, received or retained by a public agency, or to which a public agency is entitled to receive a copy by law or contract under section 1-218, whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.”

 

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

 

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 . . . receive a copy of such records in accordance with section 1-212. 

 

            7.  Section 1-212(a), G.S., provides in relevant that: “any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record.” 

 

            8.  It is found that the respondent maintains the requested records, and that such records are public records within the meaning 1-200(5) and 1-210(a), G.S.

 

            9.  It is found that, by letter dated January 30, 2006, counsel for the respondent informed the complainant that the December 5, 2005 meeting minutes described in paragraph 2.a, above, had been sent to him via e-mail on January 8, 2006; that the January 3, 2006 meeting minutes described in paragraph 2.a, above, would be sent to the complainant via e-mail once such minutes were approved; that the respondent did not maintain executive session minutes as described in paragraph 2.b, above; and that the respondent would not provide the e-mail address list described in paragraph 2.c, above, contending that such provision would amount to an invasion of privacy. 

 

10.  It is found that the complainant did not reply to the letter described in paragraph 9, above, to inform the respondent that he was having trouble opening his e-mail from the borough at such time.

 

            11.  Section 1-225(a), G.S., provides that: “…minutes shall be available for public inspection within seven days of the session to which they refer.” 

 

            12.  It is concluded that there is no requirement to wait until minutes are approved before disclosing such minutes pursuant to an FOI request. 

 

            13.  Section 1-225(f), G.S., provides that:

 

“[a] public agency may hold an executive session as defined in subdivision (6) of section 1-200, upon an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of such body present and voting, taken at a public meeting and stating the reasons for such executive session, as defined in section 1-200.” 

 

            14.  Section 1-231(a), G.S., states in relevant part:

 

“[a]t an executive session of a public agency, attendance shall be limited to members of said body and persons invited by said body to present testimony or opinion pertinent to matters before said body provided that such persons' attendance shall be limited to the period for which their presence is necessary to present such testimony or opinion and, provided further, that the minutes of such executive session shall disclose all persons who are in attendance except job applicants.”

 

15.  It is found that the executive session described in paragraph 2.b, above, occurred during a meeting of the borough on November 7, 2005.  It is found that the minutes of such meeting include the facts that the borough unanimously voted to enter such session, which members were present, and the time span of such session, but fail to state the reason for the executive session, within the meaning of the FOI Act.

 

16.  It is found that the complainant had not received the records described in paragraph 2.a and 2.b, above, at the time of the hearing in this matter.  Accordingly, it is concluded that the respondent violated the promptness provisions of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., as alleged in the complaint.

 

17.  At the hearing in this matter, the respondent pledged to provide the complainant with paper, rather than electronic, copies of the records described in paragraph 2.a and 2.b, above. 

 

18.  With respect to the records described in paragraph 2.c, above, the respondent contends that various citizens of the borough have expressed their opinion that their e-mail addresses were “private” and that they did not wish such addresses disclosed.

 

19.  It is concluded that the respondent failed to prove that any exemption applies to the public record described in paragraph 2.c, above.  It is therefore further concluded that the respondent violated the disclosure and promptness provisions of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., by failing to provide such record to the complainant, as alleged in the complaint.

 

20.  The Commission declines to consider the imposition of a civil penalty in this matter.  

 

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

 

1.  If she has not already done so, the respondent shall forthwith provide the complainant with paper copies of the records described in paragraph 2, above.

 

            2.  The borough is advised that the minutes of its November 7, 2005, meeting should be amended to reflect the reason for the executive session described in paragraph 15 of the findings, above. 

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of January 10, 2007.

 

________________________________

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:

 

Stephen R. Borer

PO Box 328

Stratford, CT 06615

 

Robin Brady Boxwell, Borough

Clerk, Borough of Woodmont

c/o Gerald T. Weiner, Esq. and

Judith Mauzaka, Esq.

PO Box 9177

350 Fairfield Avenue

Bridgeport, CT 06601

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

 

FIC/2006-024FD/paj/1/12/2007