FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

 

In the Matter of a Request
    for Advisory Opinion

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)     Advisory Opinion   #12

 

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Town of Greenwich, Applicant

)     March 1, 1976

 

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On February 11, 1976, this Commission considered and agreed to respond to a request for an advisory opinion filed in behalf of the applicant through its Town Attorney.

 

Referring to 6 of Public Act 75‑342, the applicant asked for clarification of the following requirement concerning the conduct of meetings by all public agencies:

 

"The votes of each member of any such public agency upon any issue before the public agency shall be reduced to writing and made available for public inspection within forty‑eight hours, excluding any Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, and shall be recorded in the minutes of the session at which taken, which minutes shall be available for public inspection at all reasonable times."

 

The compliance required by the General Assembly of all public agencies can be articulated in separate steps:

 

1. When a meeting is held, the public agency must prepare in written form a statement of the issues on which it acted and the votes of the respective members of that public agency on each such issue.

 

2. That written statement of the issues and the votes of the members must be made available for public inspection within forty‑eight hours after the meeting, subject to the exclusion of certain days of the week in the computation of the time period.

 

3. Then the contents of that written statement must be incorporated in minutes of the session in such form as the public agency finds appropriate.

 

4. The minutes of the session must thereafter be made available for public inspection at all reasonable times.

 

Consistent with the steps set out in the foregoing paraphrase of the quoted portion of 6, the applicant explained that the public agency that serves as the legislative body for the Town of Greenwich is the Representative Town Meeting, consisting of 230 members. The applicant further stated that its Representative Town Meeting rules provide that,

 

"Voting on all questions shall be by viva voce vote, rising vote or show of hands at the discretion of the Moderator . . . except that upon a motion for a record vote supported by one‑fourth of the members present, a record vote shall be required."

 

The rules then set out in detail the procedure to be followed in the conduct of a record vote. A record vote is clearly not carried out expeditiously, nor is it undertaken lightly by that public agency because of the size of its membership.

 

Within this context the applicant then requested the Commission to "issue a declaratory ruling that the Greenwich Representative Town Meeting be relieved of the requirement contained in Sec. 6 of P.A. 75‑342 that every item upon which its members vote be reduced to writing."

 

This is not the proposal of a regulation that would provide for a practical and expeditious compliance with 6. Instead this request for clarification seeks advice under 4‑176 G.S. as to whether or not the applicant is within the class of public agencies to which 6 of P.A. 75‑342 applies. This is answered in the affirmative, and the Commission declines to adopt the declaratory ruling that the applicant seeks in the above‑quoted excerpt from its letter. For the reasons hereinafter set forth, the Town of Greenwich is required to comply with 6 of P.A. 75‑342 in the conduct of the sessions of its Representative Town Meeting.

 

The applicant indicates that there is a conflict between the Representative Town Meeting rules and the General Statutes. Under the facts submitted by the applicant, the Town is required to comply with P.A. 75‑342, rather than with such Representative Town Meeting rules as may conflict with the statute (Old Colony Gardens, Inc., et al v. City of Stamford, et al., 147 Conn. 60, 64, 1959). This is consistent with the principle that the

exercise of local charter powers must yield to the State power where both enter a field of statewide concern (Wallingford v. Board of Education, 152 Conn. 568, 574, 1965) .

 

The statement of this request for advice indicates that the applicant is aware of the course of action 6 requires. Consequently, the only issue is whether or not this Commission can exempt the applicant from complying with the statute on the grounds that compliance is inconvenient.

 

This Commission has the power to fill in the details of the law in order to implement the clearly‑expressed State policy adopted by the General Assembly in enacting 6 of P.A. 75-342 (Aunt Hack Ridge Estates, Inc. v. Planning Commission, 160 Conn. 109, 114, 1970). But this Commission cannot lawfully modify, abridge, or otherwise change the statutory provisions it is empowered by P.A. 75‑342 to enforce (Waterbury v. Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, 160 Conn. 226, 230‑231, 1971).

 

It must follow that this Commission has not been given the power to adopt an advisory ruling or to promulgate a regulation or order that will relieve the Greenwich Representative Town Meeting of the obligation to comply with the provisions of 6 of P.A. 75-342 as enacted by the General Assembly.

 

 

                                                                                            By Order of the Freedom of
                                                                                            Information Commission

                                                                                           

                                                                                ________________________
                                                                                            Herbert Brucker, Chairman of
                                                                                            of the Freedom of Information
                                                                                            Commission

Date ___________________

 

Ordered_________________

Louis J. Tapogna, Clerk