FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Cecil Young and Patricia Nichols,  
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2006-060
Ethics Commission, City of Bridgeport,  
  Respondents January 24, 2007
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 10, 2006, at which time the complainants 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 letters dated December 10th and December 27th 2006, the complainant Young complained to the respondent about the behavior of certain city employees and alleged that such behavior was unethical.

 

3.      It is found that pursuant to its discussion at its January 11, 2006 meeting, the respondent informed the complainant Young, by letter dated January 24, 2006, that based on the information provided in his December 10th and December 27th, 2006 letters, there had been no violation of the Code of the Ethics of the City of Bridgeport.

 

4.      It is found that by letter dated January 26, 2006, the complainant Young, made a request to the respondent for copies of the following:

 

a.       “any/all documents, e-mails, faxes, and/or notes during any meeting (if any) with you and/or any member(s) of the Commission and/or City Official;”

 

b.      “the names and position of any person(s) that were involved in the reviews, investigation and deliberations of my complaints;”

 

c.       “any/all documents that may have been given to the Ethics Commission regarding my complaints and documents citing the names of any persons that were interviewed in regards to my complaints including dates, times and locations;”

 

d.      “any/all minutes of the meetings(s) including copies of any records relating to my complaints;”

 

e.       “any/all documents of any/all responses from any/all persons (if any);” and

 

f.        “any/all documents the Commission has sent to anyone about my complaints, including the persons I have complained about as well as any one from the City Attorney’s Office and the Mayor’s Office.”

 

5.      It is found that, by letter dated February 12, 2006, the respondent informed Mr. Young that the records he requested in his January 26, 2006 letter were exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act and that the only records reviewed at the respondent’s January 11, 2006 meeting were his December letters and the City of Bridgeport’s code of Ethics, a copy of which was provided to the complainant previously by letter dated January 24, 2006.

 

6.      By letter dated February 15, 2006 and filed on February 21, 2006, the complainants appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the FOI Act by failing to comply with Mr. Young’s January 26, 2006 request.

 

7.      At the hearing on this matter, the complainants explained that the January request included, but was not limited to, the records specifically listed and any records maintained by the respondent that pertain to the complaint Mr. Young filed with the respondent and the respondent’s disposition of that complaint.

 

8.      It is found that the following records are the only records responsive to Mr. Young’s request maintained by the respondent: two letters of complaint dated December 10th and December 27th, 2006, authored by Mr. Young; a copy of the City of Bridgeport’s Code of Ethics; and two versions of minutes of the January 11, 2006 meeting – the respondent described one as the minutes of the open session and the other are the minutes of the respondent’s executive session (hereinafter “responsive records”).

 

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

 

[e]xcept 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. 

 

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

 

11.   It is found that the responsive records are public records within the meaning of 1-210(a), G.S.

 

12.   It is found that the respondent is a municipal ethics commission.

 

13.   Public Act 89-229 amended 7-148h, G.S., to make the provisions of subsections (a) through (e), inclusive, of 1-82a, G.S., apply to an investigation of allegations of ethical misconduct brought before a municipal ethics commission.

 

14.   Section 1-82a(b), G.S., provides in relevant part that “[a]n investigation conducted prior to a probable cause finding shall be confidential except upon the request of the respondent.”

 

15.   Section 1-82a(d), G.S., provides in relevant part that:

 

If the [ethics] commission makes a finding of no probable cause, the complaint and the record of its investigation shall remain confidential, except upon the request of the respondent and except that some or all of the record may be used in subsequent proceedings.

 

16.   It is found that the respondent's review and discussion of  Mr. Young’s December letters of complaint, at its January 11, 2006 meeting, was an investigation conducted prior to a probable cause finding, within the meaning of 1-82a(b), G.S.

 

17.   It is found that, by the letter dated January 24, 2006, as described in paragraph 3, above, the respondent made a finding of no probable cause, within the meaning of 1-82a(d), G.S.

 

18.   It is concluded that Mr. Young’s December 10th and December 27th, 2006 letters, constitute the complaint and the record of the respondents investigation within the meaning 1-82(a) and (d), G.S., and are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 7-148h, G.S.

 

19.   It is found that, notwithstanding the finding in paragraph 18, above, the complainants have a copy of the two letters of complaint, and that the respondent provided Mr. Young with a copy of the city’s code of ethics.

 

20.   It is found, however, that the respondent did not provide the complainants with a copy of either version of the minutes of the January 11, 2006 meeting.

 

21.   At the hearing on this matter, counsel for the respondent argued that Mr. Young’s request did not include a request for a copy of the minutes of the January 11, 2006 meeting.

 

22.   It is found however that Mr. Young’s request described in paragraph 4d, above, clearly includes a request for the minutes of the respondent’s January 11, 2006 meeting. 

 

23.   With respect to the minutes of the respondent’s executive session, the respondent submitted the minutes to the Commission for an in-camera inspection which minutes have been identified as in-camera record #FIC 2006-060-01.

 

24.   It is found that the portion of in-camera record #FIC 2006-060-01 which begins at the 11th line with the word “A” and ends at the 18th line with the word “place” are part of the record of the respondent’s investigation within the meaning of 1-82a(d), G.S., and is exempt from disclosure pursuant to 7-148h, G.S.

 

25.   It is also found however, the respondent failed to prove that the remaining portions of in-camera record #FIC 2006-060-01 are exempt from the disclosure provisions of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S.

 

26.   It is concluded, therefore, that the respondent violated the disclosure provisions of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., by failing to provide the complainants with a redacted copy of the minutes of the respondent’s executive session during the January 11, 2006 meeting.

 

27.   It is concluded that the respondent violated the disclosure provisions of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., by failing to provide the complainants with a copy of the minutes of the open session of the January 11, 2006 meeting.

 

28.   At the hearing on this matter, counsel for the respondent represented that the respondent would provide the complainants with a copy of the minutes of the open session of its January 11, 2006 meeting.

 

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

 

1.      The respondent shall provide the complainants with a copy of the minutes of the executive session of the respondent’s January 11, 2006 meeting described in paragraph 23, of the findings, above.

 

2.      In complying with the order in paragraph 1, above, the respondent may redact lines 11 through 18 starting with the word “A” and ending with the word “place”.

                                                                                                                                   

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of January 24, 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:

 

Cecil Young and Patricia Nichols

99 Carroll Avenue

Bridgeport, CT 06607

 

Ethics Commission, City of Bridgeport

c/o John H. Barton, Esq.

Office of the City Attorney

999 Broad Street, 2nd floor

Bridgeport, CT 06604

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

 

FIC/2006-060FD/paj/1/30/2007