FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Gary Gauruder,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2010-317

Police Commission,  

Town of Wilton,

 
  Respondent March 23, 2011
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 2, 2010, at which time the complainant and the respondent 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 respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-200(1), G.S.

 

2.  By letter dated May 14, 2010 and filed May 17, 2010, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by convening its special meeting on April 26, 2010, scheduled to begin at 8:00 pm, at  approximately 8:45 pm; by failing to provide an explanation to the complainant of the delay; by keeping the complainant and several other members of the public waiting in the lobby of the police station until the start of the meeting; and by telling the complainant and other members of the public that they could leave because the meeting was going to be postponed.

 

3.  Section 1-225(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that:

 

[t]he meetings of all public agencies, except executive sessions, as defined in subdivision (6) of section 1-200, shall be open to the public. 

 

4.  It is found that, on April 26, 2010, a pre-termination hearing (the “meeting”) was scheduled to be held at 8:00 pm in the “day room,” located in the basement of the town of Wilton police department.  It is found that the meeting concerned Officer Christian Lund.

 

5.  It is found that the meeting was convened at 8:46 pm, solely for the purpose of voting to continue the meeting to another date.   It is further found that no meeting of the members of the respondent occurred between 8:00 pm and 8:46 pm, prior to the time that the meeting was convened.

 

6.  It is found that, at the time of the meeting, the procedure for attending meetings of the respondent was that members of the public wishing to attend such meetings would, for security purposes, be “buzzed in” to the police department building and escorted to the day room, because members of the public would need to pass through a secure part of the building in order to reach the day room.  It is further found that, for security reasons, members of the public would not be “buzzed in” to the building until the meeting was about to start. 

 

7.  It is found that the complainant, his wife, and several other individuals arrived at the police station at approximately 8:00 pm, intending to attend the meeting, and waited in the lobby to be “buzzed in.”  It is further found that the meeting did not begin until approximately 8:45 pm, because the attorney for Officer Lund arrived at the building late, at approximately 8:15 pm, and then asked to speak with his client.  Thereafter, Officer Lund’s attorney asked to speak to the town attorney, regarding a settlement offer, and subsequently, the town attorney informed the members of the respondent that Officer Lund had requested a continuance of the meeting.

 

8.  It is found that, just prior to the time that the meeting was convened, Captain Lynch of the Wilton Police Department, at the request of the respondent, went upstairs to where the complainant and the other members of the public had been waiting, and explained to them that the meeting was going to be opened, but that they didn’t need to attend because there would be no actual pre-termination hearing.  It is further found that one member of the public in attendance asked if they would be allowed to come in and attend the meeting anyway, and that Captain Lynch responded “of course,” and proceeded to “buzz in” the crowd, including the complainant.

 

9.  At the hearing in this matter, the complainant explained that he interpreted Captain Lynch’s statement to him and the others that they didn’t need to attend the meeting, as a denial of access to the meeting.  However, it is found that such statement was not a denial of access, but rather was simply an attempt by Captain Lynch to be helpful, in view of the fact that (a) the complainant and others had already waited for almost an hour; (b) there wasn’t going to be a pre-termination hearing after all; and (c) he thought that they might as well not wait any longer to attend a meeting the sole purpose of which would be to vote to continue the hearing. 

 

10.  It is found that the complainant and many members of the public who had been waiting in the lobby for the meeting to begin attended the meeting, which was adjourned at 8:47 pm. 

 

11.  It is found that the meeting was open to the public, in accordance with 1-225(a), G.S.  While it may have been inconvenient for the complainant to wait for almost an hour to attend a meeting, only to find that the meeting was continued, there is nothing in the FOI Act that requires public agencies to begin their meetings on time; or to provide explanations as to why meetings are not convened on time.  The Commission notes that the respondent, as of the date of the hearing in this matter, has changed the location of its meetings to the town hall in order to make its meetings more convenient for the public.

 

12.  Accordingly, it is concluded that the respondents did not violate the FOI Act as alleged.

 

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

           

            1.   The complaint is hereby dismissed.

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 23, 2011.

 

__________________________

Cynthia A. Cannata

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:

 

Gary Gauruder

146 Branca Court

Milford, CT  06461

 

Police Commission, Town of Wilton

c/o Donald F. Houston, Esq. and

Christopher M. Hodgson, Esq.

Durant, Nichols, Houston, Hodgson & Cortese-Costa

1057 Broad Street

Bridgeport, CT  06604

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________

Cynthia A. Cannata

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

 

 

FIC/2010-317/FD/cac/3/29/2011