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Final Decision FIC2014-586
In the Matter of a Complaint by
FINAL DECISION
Paul Baer,
     Complainant
     against
Docket #FIC 2014-586
Sarah Laughlin, Chairperson, Board of
Assessment Appeals, Town of Thompson;
Erica Groh, Member, Board of Assessment
Appeals, Town of Thompson; Linda
Jarmolowicz, Member, Board of Assessment
Appeals, Town of Thompson; Board of
Assessment Appeals, Town of Thompson;
and Town Of Thompson,
     Respondents
April 22, 2015

     The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on January 21, 2015, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. 
     For purposes of the hearing, this matter was consolidated with Docket #FIC2014-382, Paul Baer v. Sara B. Laughlin, Chairman, Board of Assessment Appeals, Town of Thompson; Board of Assessment Appeals, Town of Thompson; and Town of Thompson.
     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), G.S.
     2.  It is found that, by e-mail dated September 9, 2014 the complainant appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to post the agenda for the respondent Board of Assessment Appeals’ September 2, 2014 meeting on the respondent board’s webpage 24 hours prior to that meeting, pursuant to §1-225(d), G.S.  The complainant requested the imposition of civil penalties.
     3.  Section 1-225(d), G.S., provides in relevant part that:
Notice of each special meeting of every public agency… shall be posted not less than twenty-four hours before the meeting to which such notice refers on the public agency’s Internet web site, if available…
     4.  It is found that the respondent board has a webpage on the town of Thompson’s (hereinafter “the town”) website on which it can post the agendas and notices of its special meetings.
     5.  It is found that the town has no official process by which its boards and commissions can submit information to an individual, such as a webmaster, to be posted on its website and offered no official training for posting any information to their respective pages.
     6.  It is found that, while the complainant served as the town’s volunteer web master for a period of time and had made himself available to train board and commission members on how to post information to the website, there is no evidence that such training was officially sanctioned and/or required by the town.
     7.  It is also found that the respondent chairperson is not only without any training to post information to the respondent board’s web page, she had no password to access the website and was unaware that the complainant was ever available to her for assistance. 
     8.  Consequently, the respondent board failed to post the agenda for its September 2, 2014 special meeting on the town’s website 24 four hours prior to that meeting, in violation of §1-225(d), G.S.
     9.  It is found that it should be noted that the agenda for the meeting was otherwise properly noticed pursuant to §1-225(d), G.S.
     10. With respect to the complainant’s request for a civil penalty, it is found that the web posting provisions of the FOI Act are relatively new and can be difficult to comply with for an individual with little general computer skills and further with no web site management skills, such as the respondent chairperson.
     11. In response to the complainant’s contention that the boards and commissions of the town of Thompson have a pattern of violating the FOI Act, it is found that the respondent board has never been before this Commission for an alleged violation of the FOI Act until the two complaints filed by the complainant in this matter and in Docket #FIC2014-382, Paul Baer v. Sara B. Laughlin, Chairman, Board of Assessment Appeals, Town of Thompson; Board of Assessment Appeals, Town of Thompson; and Town of Thompson.
     12. It is further found that no one board or commission of a town should be penalized for the cumulative violations of all the others.
     13. In light of all the forgoing findings, this Commission declines to consider the complainant’s request for civil penalties in this case.
     The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
     1.  Henceforth, the respondents shall strictly comply with the web posting provisions of §1-225(d), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of April 22, 2015.
__________________________
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:
Paul Baer
P.O. Box 522
Thompson, CT  06277
Sarah Laughlin, Chairperson, Board of Assessment
Appeals, Town of Thompson; Erica Groh, Member,
Board of Assessment Appeals, Town of Thompson;
Linda Jarmolowicz, Member, Board of Assessment
Appeals, Town of Thompson; Board of Assessment
Appeals, Town of Thompson; and Town Of Thompson
c/o William H. St. Onge, Esq.
St. Onge & Brouillard
P.O. Box 550
Putnam, CT  06260

____________________________
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission

FIC/2014-586/FD/cac/4/22/2015