FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Cecil Young and Patricia Young,  
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2006-417
Ethics Commission, City of Bridgeport,  
  Respondent  June 13, 2007
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 7, and April 4, 2007, at which times the complainants and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  The Commission takes administrative notice of the record and decision in docket #FIC 2006-060; Cecil Young and Patricia Nichols v. Ethics Commission, City of Bridgeport.

 

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 two letters dated December 1, 2005, 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 the respondent informed the complainant Young, by letter dated December 29, 2005, that the Commission found no violation of the Code of the Ethics of the City of Bridgeport.

 

4.      It is found that by letter dated August 4, 2006, the complainants made a request to the respondent for a copy 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 that support . . . that the Commission did not find a violation in the two complaints . . . filed with the Ethics Commission;”

 

b.      “ an audio copy of any/all minutes of a meeting or meeting(s) and copies of any/all documents of the minutes of any meeting(s) and /or agenda, date, time and location of any meeting that was held by the Commission that determined that a violation has not occurred with respect to [the two] complaints;”

 

c.       “any/all documents of how the Commission arrived with the conclusion that a violation was not found and any/all documents showing the persons and/or Ethics Commission Members that were involved in the outcome that a violation not occurred.”

 

 

5.      By letter dated August 15, 2006 and filed on August 18, 2006, the complainants appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to comply with their August 4, 2006 records request.

 

6.      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 1st, 2005; and two versions of minutes of the respondent’s December 14th, 2005 meeting – the respondent described one as the minutes of the open session and the other as the minutes of the respondent’s executive session (hereinafter “responsive records”).

 

7.      Section 1-200(5), G.S., provides in relevant part that:

 

“[p]ublic records or files” means 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.

 

8.      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. 

 

9.      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.” 

 

10.   It is found that the responsive records are public records within the meaning of 1-200(5) and 1-210(a), G.S.

 

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

 

12.   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.

 

13.   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.”

 

14.   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.

 

15.   It is found that the respondent's review and discussion of Mr. Young’s December letters of complaint, at its December 14, 2005 meeting, was an investigation conducted prior to a probable cause finding, within the meaning of 1-82a(b), G.S.

 

16.   It is found that, by the letter dated December 14, 2005, described in paragraph 3, above, the respondent made a finding of no probable cause, within the meaning of 1-82a(d), G.S.

 

17.   It is concluded that Mr. Young’s December 1st, 2005 letters, constitute the complaint and the record of the respondent’s investigation within the meaning 1-82(a) and (d), G.S., and are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 7-148h, G.S.

 

18.   It is found that, notwithstanding the finding in paragraph 17, above, the complainants have a copy of the two letters of complaint.

 

19.   It is found, however, that the respondent did not provide the complainants with a copy of either version of the minutes of the December 14, 2005 meeting.

 

20.   At the April 4, 2007 hearing on this matter, the respondent provided the complainants with a copy of what it described as the public meeting minutes of its December 14, 2005 meeting.

 

21.   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 2006-417-01.

 

22.   It is found that the portion of in camera record #FIC 2006-417-01 that begins at the 9th line, with the word “A”, and ends at the 30th line, with the word “continuing,” is 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 pursuant to 7-148h, G.S.

 

23.   It is also found however, the respondent failed to prove that the remaining portions of in camera record #FIC 2006-417-01 are exempt from the disclosure provisions of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S.

 

24.   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 December 14, 2005 meeting.

 

25.   It is concluded that the respondent violated the disclosure provisions of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., by failing to promptly provide the complainants with a copy of the portion the minutes of the open session of the December 14, 2005 meeting that was not part of the record of the respondent’s investigation within the meaning of 1-82a(d), G.S.

 

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 December 14, 2005 meeting described in paragraph 20, of the findings, above.

 

2.      In complying with the order in paragraph 1, above, the respondent may redact lines 9 through 30 starting with the word “A” and ending with the word “continuing.”                                                                                                                                 

                                   

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 13, 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 Young

99 Carroll Avenue

Bridgeport, CT 06607

 

Ethics Commission,

City of Bridgeport

c/o Melanie J. Howlett, Esq.

Associate City Attorney

Office of the City Attorney

999 Broad Street, 2nd floor

Bridgeport, CT 06604

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

 

FIC/2006-417FD/paj/6/20/2007