FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Charles Scopelitis,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2006-446

Alan Marcus, Chairman,

Planning and Zoning Commission,

Town of Montville,

 
  Respondent August 22, 2007
       

            

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 4, 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.  By letter of complaint filed September 5, 2006, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to make minutes available for public inspection within seven days of the July 25, 2006 meeting of the Montville Planning and Zoning Commission.  The complainant requested that all actions and decisions at the July 25, 2006 meeting be declared null and void.

 

3.  It is found that the Montville Planning and Zoning Commission held a regular meeting on July 25, 2006 to consider and approve various matters, including an application for site plan modifications for field changes at the Montville Commons project located on the property at 2000, 2020 and 2030 Norwich-New London Turnpike, Uncasville, Connecticut.

 

4.  It is found that the complainant requested a copy of the minutes of the July 25, 2006 meeting on July 28, 2006 and August 3, 2007, but that the minutes were not available.


5.  It is found that the minutes of the July 25, 2006 meeting were not available until August 7, 2007.

 

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

 

7.  It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-225(a), G.S., by failing to make the minutes of the July 25, 2006 meeting available for public inspection within seven days of the session to which they refer.

 

8.  With respect to remedies, the complainant seeks an order declaring the actions taken at the July 25, 2006 meeting to be null and void, and any other relief that the Commission deems appropriate; and that the respondent be subject to any other penalties deemed appropriate by the Commission.

 

9.  Section 1-206(b)(2), G.S., provides in relevant part:

 

In any appeal to the Freedom of Information Commission under subdivision (1) of this subsection or subsection (c) of this section, the commission may confirm the action of the agency or order the agency to provide relief that the commission, in its discretion, believes appropriate to rectify the denial of any right conferred by the Freedom of Information Act.  The commission may declare null and void any action taken at any meeting which a person was denied the right to attend and may require the production or copying of any public record.  In addition, upon the finding that a denial of any right created by the Freedom of Information Act was without reasonable grounds and after the custodian or other official directly responsible for the denial has been given an opportunity to be heard at a hearing conducted in accordance with sections 4-176e to 4-184, inclusive, the commission may, in its discretion, impose against the custodian or other official a civil penalty of not less than twenty dollars nor more than one thousand dollars. 

 

10.  The complainant contends that, due to the delay in obtaining minutes, he was prejudiced in taking an appeal from the actions of the Planning and Zoning Commission at its July 25, 2006 meeting, because he had to “scramble” to prepare the appeal.

 

11.  It is found, however, that the complainant was present at the July 25, 2006 meeting, that a tape recording of that meeting was offered to the complainant, that the complainant filed a timely appeal, that the complainant was unable to point to any defects in his appeal caused by the delay in obtaining the minutes, and that the complainant was unable to point to anything in the minutes ultimately made available that would have been useful in preparing his appeal.

 

            12.  It is therefore found that the delay in obtaining the minutes of the July 25, 2006 meeting did not prejudice the complainant in taking his appeal.

 

13.  The Commission in its discretion therefore declines to declare the actions taken at the July 25, 2006 meeting null and void.

 

 

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

 

1.  Henceforth the respondent shall strictly comply with the requirements of 1-225(a), G.S.

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of August 22, 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:

 

Charles Scopelitis

c/o Nicholas F. Kepple, Esq.

Kepple, Morgan & Avena, P.C.

20 South Anguilla Road

PO Box 1445

Pawcatuck, CT 06379

 

Alan Marcus, Chairman,

Planning and Zoning Commission,

Town of Montville

c/o Ronald F. Ochsner, Esq.

Branse, Willis & Knapp, LLC

148 Eastern Boulevard

Glastonbury, CT 06033

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2006-446FD/paj/8/22/2007