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Final Decision FIC2014-404
In the Matter of a Complaint by
FINAL DECISION
David Godbout,
     Complainant
     against
Docket #FIC 2014-404
Citation Hearing Officer, Hartford Parking
Authority; and Hartford Parking Authority,
     Respondents
June 10, 2015

     The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 22, 2015, at which time the complainant and the respondents 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of §1-200(1), G.S.
     2.  By letter filed June 26, 2014, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the FOI Act by prohibiting him from attending and recording the citation hearings meeting on June 17, 2014.  The complainant requested the imposition of civil penalties against the mayor of the City of Hartford.
     3.  Section 1-200(2), G.S., defines “meeting” as:
any hearing or other proceeding of a public agency … to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power...
     4.  Section 1-225(a), G.S., provides, in relevant part:  “The meetings of all public agencies … shall be open to the public.” 
     5.  Section 1-226(a), G.S., provides, in relevant part:  “At any meeting of a public agency which is open to the public, pursuant to the provisions of section 1-225, proceedings of such public agency may be recorded, photographed, broadcast or recorded for broadcast, subject to such rules as such public agency may have prescribed prior to such meeting, by any person…”
     6.  The respondents do not contest, and it is found, that the citation hearings meeting that the respondents allegedly barred the complainant from attending was a “meeting” within the meaning of §1-200(2), G.S.
     7.  It is found that the complainant visited the Citation Hearing Office on June 17, 2014, in order to attend ongoing hearings.
     8.  It is found that upon his arrival at the Citation Hearing Office, the complainant noticed a posted sign prohibiting photographs.
     9.  It is found that when the complainant attempted to enter the room where the hearings were underway, he discovered that the door was locked. 
     10. It is found that a security guard opened the door, acknowledged that hearings were going on, but refused to permit the complainant to enter the hearings room and also refused permission to record or photograph the proceedings.
     11. The Commission takes administrative notice of Docket #FIC2012-627, David Godbout v. Citation Hearing Office, Hartford Parking Authority; and Hartford Parking Authority (September 11, 2013), in which the same respondents were found to have violated §1-225(a), G.S., by failing to make the citation hearings open to the public.
     12. The Commission found in Docket #FIC 2012-627 that for security reasons, the respondents conduct citation hearings behind a closed and locked door.  It is found that entry to the hearings is gained by a buzzer controlled by a clerk seated behind a thick plastic panel. 
     13. At the hearing in this matter, the respondents acknowledged that the security guard should have permitted the complainant to enter, or, at least, directed the complainant to the clerk in order to gain entry.
     14. The respondents also acknowledged that they may not prohibit photographs of the proceedings, and counsel for the respondents represented that the sign was recently removed.
     15. It is concluded that the respondents violated §§1-225(a) and 1-226(a), G.S., as alleged.
     16. The Commission declines to order the imposition of a civil penalty.
     The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
     1. Forthwith, the respondents shall comply with the open meeting requirements of §§1-225(a) and 1-226(a), G.S.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 10, 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:
David Godbout
15 Cardinal Road
East Lyme, CT  06333
Citation Hearing Officer, Hartford Parking Authority;
and Hartford Parking Authority
c/o Cynthia Lauture, Esq.
Office of the Corporation Counsel
550 Main Street
Hartford, CT  06103
____________________________
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission

FIC/2014-404/FD/cac/6/10/2015