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Final Decision FIC2014-866
In the Matter of a Complaint by
FINAL DECISION
Rich Saluga,
     Complainant
     against
Docket #FIC 2014-866
Chairperson, Board of Ethics, Town of
Brookfield; Board of Ethics, Town of
Brookfield; and Town of Brookfield,
     Respondents
October 14, 2015

     The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 4, 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 November 25, 2014, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by:
a. failing to have minutes of three meetings available for inspection;
b. failing to provide records concerning ethics complaint C-2014-11; and
c. failing to provide records documenting expenditures for legal advice. 
     3.  With respect to the complaint concerning minutes, described in paragraph 2.a, above, §1-225(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:
Not later than seven days after the date of the session to which such minutes refer, such minutes shall be available for public inspection …  Each public agency shall make, keep and maintain a record of the proceedings of its meetings.
     4.  It is found that on November 3, 2014, the complainant went to the respondent town’s clerk’s office to inspect minutes for several of the respondents’ 2014 meetings.
     5.  It is found that personnel in the clerk’s office provided minutes for all but three meetings, but were unable to locate minutes for those three meetings.
     6.  It is found that the respondents’ recording secretary timely filed minutes of such meetings after each meeting occurred.  It is found, therefore, that the respondents did not fail to make the minutes available for inspection.
     7.  It is found that the respondents provided copies of the missing minutes to the complainant on November 10, 2014. 
     8.  It is concluded that the respondents did not violate §1-225(a), G.S., as alleged.
     9.  With respect to the complainant’s request for records pertaining to the respondents’ investigation of ethics case number C-2014-11, §1-200(5), G.S., provides:
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, …whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.
     10. Section 1-210(a), G.S., provides, in relevant part:
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, … or (3) receive a copy of such records in accordance with section 1-212.
     11. Section 1-212(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:  “Any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain, facsimile, electronic or certified copy of any public record. 
     12. It is found that all the records requested by the complainants are public records within the meaning of §§1-200(5), 1-210(a), and 1-212(a), G.S.
     13. In addition, §7-148h(a), G.S., provides, in relevant part:
Any town, city, district, . . . or borough may, by charter provision or ordinance, establish a board, commission, council, committee or other agency to investigate allegations of unethical conduct, corrupting influence or illegal activities levied against any official, officer or employee of such town, city, district or borough.  The provisions of subsections (a) to (e), inclusive, of section 1-82a shall apply to allegations before any such agency of such conduct, influence or activities, to an investigation of such allegations conducted prior to a probable cause finding, and to a finding of probable cause or no probable cause. . .
     14. Section 1-82a(a), G.S., provides, in relevant part:
Unless a judge trial referee makes a finding of probable cause, a complaint alleging a violation of this part  . . . shall be confidential except upon the request of the respondent.  An evaluation of a possible violation of this part. .  . by the Office of State Ethics prior to the filing of a complaint shall be confidential except upon the request of the subject of the evaluation.  If the evaluation is confidential, any information supplied to or received from the Office of State Ethics shall not be disclosed to any third party by a subject of the evaluation, a person contacted for the purpose of obtaining information or by the ethics enforcement officer or staff of the Office of State Ethics. . . .
     15. It is found that, pursuant to §7-148h(a), G.S., the respondent board was established to investigate complaints alleging ethics violations.  It is found that §1-82a (a), G.S., requires the board of ethics to keep all ethics complaints confidential until it determines that the allegations are supported by probable cause. 

     16. It is found that the respondents initially found probable cause to sustain the allegations in C-2014-11, but upon consultation with their attorney, soon realized they were mistaken and rescinded their finding. 
     17. The respondents submitted no evidence of a request for non-confidentiality by the subject of the evaluation, within the meaning of §1-82a(a), G.S.
     18. Moreover, it is concluded that the respondents’ mistaken finding of probable cause did not lift the confidentiality attached to the complaint and to information concerning the board’s evaluation.
     19. It is found that the records requested by the complainant contain information supplied to or received from the respondents concerning the evaluation, within the meaning of §1-82a(a), G.S. 
     20. It is concluded that §1-210(a), G.S., prohibits disclosure of such records.
     21. With respect to the complainant’s request for records concerning the respondents’ expenditures for legal advice, it is found that the respondents do not maintain any records responsive to the request. 
     22. It is found that the Finance Office does maintain such records, and subsequently provided them to the complainant, redacted to protect privileged information.
     23. The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
          1. The complaint is dismissed.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of October 14, 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:
Rich Saluga
Newbury Village
32 Great Heron Lane
Brookfield, CT  06804
Chairperson, Board of Ethics, Town of Brookfield; Board of Ethics,
Town of Brookfield; and Town of Brookfield
c/o Thomas V. Beecher, Esq.
Collins Hannagin, P.C.
148 Deer Hill Avenue
Danbury, CT  06810
____________________________
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission

FIC/2014-866/FD/cac/10/14/2015