FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Ken Weseman,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2006-267

Board of Assessment Appeals, Town

of Voluntown,

 
  Respondent April 25, 2007
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 16, 2006, at which time the complainant and 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.      By letter dated May 22, 2006, and filed on May 24, 2006, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent does not “maintain proper meeting minutes” and that many decisions of the respondent board are made by its chairman and not by a majority of the board.  The complainant also alleged that:

 

a.       that, in response to his May 5, 2006 request to the town clerk, he did not receive a copy of his appeal application, the letter from the respondent board informing him of his hearing date, or the minutes from the March 10, 2006 hearings;

b.      that the board held a meeting on or about March 22, 2006 to determine that it would not act on his application because it was not signed without noticing that meeting or maintaining minutes of that meeting; and

c.       that the board should have determined not to act on his appeal application at the March 27, 2006 meeting and not five days prior to that meeting via e-mail.

 

3.      It is found that the complainant submitted an appeal application to the respondent board dated February 6, 2006 and that the respondent board informed the complainant that his appeal application would be heard at its March 10, 2006 hearing.

 

4.      It is found that respondent board held a public hearing on March 10, 2006, at which the complainant appeared and presented his appeal to the respondent board.

 

5.      It is also found, however, that by e-mail dated March 22, 2006, the chairman of the respondent board informed the complainant that, because his appeal application was not signed, the board could not act on his appeal.  It is found that the respondent board held a meeting on March 27, 2006, the minutes of which state that “Mr. Weseman neglected to sign the form, therefore we can take no action.”

 

6.      It is found that by letter dated May 5, 2006, the complainant made a request to the Voluntown town clerk for a copy of all meeting minutes between January 1, 2006 and May 1, 2006 and all letters, e-mails, and any other documentation, from the respondent board or individual members of the respondent board, in which his name or property appears within the same time period.

 

7.      It is found that, by letter dated May 10, 2006, the town clerk provided the complainant with three documents: the notice of the respondent board’s hearings and meetings of March 10, 11 and 27, 2006; an e-mail dated March 22, 2006, from Gil Grimm to the complainant; and the minutes of the respondent board’s March 27, 2006 meeting.

 

8.      With respect to the portion of the complainant’s complaint described in paragraph 2a, above, 1-210(a) 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 . . . Each such agency shall make, keep and maintain a record of the proceedings of its meetings.

 

9.       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.” 

 

10.   It is found that the town clerk provided everything that she maintained and that she did not maintain a copy of the complainant’s appeal application, the letter informing him of the hearing date or minutes from the March 10, 2006 hearing. 

 

11.   At the hearing on this matter, the respondent board’s chairman explained that he understood the complainant’s request to be for a copy of all the records generated or created by the respondent board and not for all the records that it maintained regarding him and his appeal application.  The respondent board’s chairman stated that had he known that the complainant wanted a copy of the appeal application, he would have provided it.

 

12.   It is found that the complainant’s request was for all letters, e-mails, and any other documentation, from the respondent board or individual members of the respondent board and that his appeal application was submitted by the complainant to the respondent board.  Therefore it is found that, technically, the complainant’s request does not include a request for his appeal application. 

 

13.   It is found therefore that is not unreasonable that the respondent board interpreted the complainant’s request as described in paragraph 11, above, and therefore, it is concluded that the respondent board did not violate the disclosure provisions of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., by failing to provide the complainant with a copy of the appeal application.

 

14.   It is found that the respondent board does not maintain a copy of the letter by which it informed the complainant of his hearing date because no file copy is ever kept of such letters and therefore, it is concluded that the respondent board did not violate the disclosure provisions of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., by failing to provide the complainant with a copy such letter.

 

15.   It is also found that there are no minutes of the respondent board’s March 10 2006 hearing because the respondent board did not have anyone to record the minutes at that hearing.

 

16.   It is concluded, therefore, that the respondent board violated 1-210(a), G.S., by failing to keep and maintain a record of the proceedings of its March 10, 2006 hearing.

 

17.   With respect to the complainant’s allegation described in paragraph 2b, above, 1-225(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that “[t]he meetings of all public agencies, . . . shall be open to the public.”

 

18.   It is found that the respondent did not hold a meeting.  Rather, the respondent board’s chairman acted unilaterally, in his capacity as chairman, when he determined that, pursuant to the Board of Assessment Appeals Handbook, no action could be taken on the complainant’s appeal application and issued the March 22, 2006 e-mail.

 

19.   Consequently, the respondent did not violate the FOI Act as alleged by the complainant in paragraph 2b, above.

 

20.   With respect to the complainant’s allegation described in paragraph 2c, above, it is found that the complainant has not alleged a violation of the FOI Act and therefore such allegation will not be addressed herein.

 

21.   At the hearing on this matter, the complainant requested that this Commission declare the actions of the respondent board void; however, under the facts and circumstances of this case, the Commission declines to make such declaration.

 

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

 

1.      The respondent board shall generate minutes of the March 10, 2006 hearing described in paragraph 4 of the findings, above, which minutes, at the minimum, shall record the time, date and place of such hearing, the members of the respondent board that attended the hearing, the subject of the discussion, any motions that were made and any votes taken.  A copy of such minutes shall be provided to the complainant, free of charge, within 7 days of the notice of the final decision in this case.

 

2.      Henceforth, the respondent shall strictly comply with the provisions of 1-210(a), G.S.

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of April 25, 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:

 

Ken Weseman

22 Lakeside Terrace

Voluntown, CT 06384

 

Board of Assessment Appeals, Town

of Voluntown

c/o Gilbert Grimm, First Selectman

115 Main Street

PO Box 96

Voluntown, CT 06384-0096

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

 

FIC/2006-267FD/paj/4/30/2007