FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Richard J. White,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2008-439

City Clerk, City of Waterbury; and

Public Works Department, City of Waterbury,

 
  Respondents January 14, 2009
       

 

The above-captioned matter was consolidated for hearing with Docket # FIC 2008-558, Richard J. White v. Board of Park Commissioners, City of Waterbury. Both matters were scheduled for hearing as contested cases on October 14, 2008, at which time both the complainant and the respondents appeared 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-200(1)(A), G.S.

 

2.  It is found that by letter, dated June 20, 2008, the complainant made a request to the respondent City Clerk for copies of the agenda and minutes of meetings at which the commissioners of the board of park commissioners “discussed and voted that non-resident seniors be allowed to purchase a season pass for the city golf courses at the same rate a Waterbury resident pays.” 

 

3.  By letter dated June 28, 2008 and filed with the Commission on July 1, 2008, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents’ failure to provide the requested records violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”).

 

4.  Section 1-200(5), G.S., states:

 

“Public 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.

 

5.  Sections 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., state, respectively, in relevant parts:

 

“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 (1) inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours, (2) copy such records in accordance with subsection (g) of section 1-212, or (3) receive a copy of such records in accordance with section 1-212. 

 

 

Any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record. 

6.  It is concluded that the requested records are “public records” within the meaning of 1-200(5), 1-210(a), and 1-212(a), G.S.

7.  It is found that the complainant’s request was forwarded to an attorney in the corporation counsel’s office for a response. On June 26, 2008, the attorney forwarded to the complainant a copy of the minutes of the March 4, 2008 meeting of the board of park commissioners, the meeting at which rates for use of the golf courses were adopted. (As reflected in the minutes, the distinction made in the records request between resident and non-resident seniors was discussed at the meeting, though the schedule of rates did not make any such express distinction.) It is also found that the attorney inadvertently failed to forward to the complainant on June 26, 2008 a copy of the agenda for the March 4, 2008 meeting, even though the agenda had been prepared and filed. The complainant chose not to take any additional steps to get a copy of the agenda for the March 4, 2008 meeting after the attorney in the corporation counsel’s office failed to provide him with a copy. A copy of this agenda was delivered to the complainant at the hearing.

8.  At the hearing, the complainant stated that he was not furnished a copy of the minutes and agenda for the April 1, 2008 meeting of the board of park commissioners. It is found that there was no vote on golf course rates at the April 1, 2008 meeting and that the commissioners “discussion” was confined to a single comment of a single commissioner, responding to a question from the complainant in the public comment portion of the meeting. It is found that the minutes and agenda for the April 1, 2008 meeting of the board of park commissioners were beyond the scope of the complainant’s June 20, 2008 request, as set forth at paragraph 2, above.

 

9.  Also at the hearing, the complainant raised issues about the adequacy of both the agenda for the March 4, 2008 meeting and the minutes of the March 4, 2008 meeting of the board of park commissioners. For example, the minutes did not record the votes of individual members. The respondents stated that they had taken steps to improve the FOIA compliance of the board of park commissioners.         

 

10.  Section 1-206, G.S., states in relevant part: 

 

(b)(1)  Any person denied the right to inspect or copy records under section 1-210 or wrongfully denied the right to attend any meeting of a public agency or denied any other right conferred by the Freedom of Information Act may appeal therefrom to the Freedom of Information Commission, by filing a notice of appeal with said commission.  A notice of appeal shall be filed not later than thirty days after such denial, except in the case of an unnoticed or secret meeting, in which case the appeal shall be filed not later than thirty days after the person filing the appeal receives notice in fact that such meeting was held. (emphasis added)

 

11.  It is found that the complainant did not raise in his complaint questions concerning the content of the agenda and minutes of the March 4, 2008 meeting of the board of park commissioners; that the complainant had notice that the March 4, 2008 meeting of the board of park commissioners was to be held; and that the complainant did not file a revised complaint before the Commission issued its order to show cause.

 

12.  Accordingly, even though the complainant did not receive the agenda for the March 4, 2008 meeting until the Commission hearing, it is concluded that the complainant did not timely raise the issues discussed at paragraph 9, above. It is therefore concluded that, pursuant to 1-206(b)(1), G.S., the Commission does not have jurisdiction over questions surrounding the content of the agenda and minutes of the March 4, 2008 meeting of the board of park commissioners.

  

13.  It is concluded that the respondents violated 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., by failing to provide promptly to the complainant the agenda of the March 4, 2008 meeting of the board of park commissioners.

 

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

 

1.  Henceforth, the respondents shall provide requested non-exempt records promptly.     

 

2.  The respondents shall contact the Commission within thirty days to schedule an FOIA workshop conducted by a member of the Commission’s staff for all supervisors employed by the respondents. A joint workshop can be used to satisfy this order and order 2 in Docket # FIC 2008-558, Richard J. White v. Board of Park Commissioners, City of Waterbury

                                   

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of January 14, 2009.

 

 

____________________________

S. Wilson

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:

 

Richard J. White

31 Gayfield Road

Waterbury, CT 06706

 

City Clerk, City of Waterbury; and

Public Works Department, City of Waterbury

c/o Kevin J. Daly Jr., Esq.

Corporation Counsel

City of Waterbury

26 Kendrick Avenue, 8th Floor

Waterbury, CT 06702

 

 

____________________________

S. Wilson

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2008-439FD/sw/1/22/2009