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Final Decision FIC2011-281
In the Matter of a Complaint by
FINAL DECISION
Bradshaw Smith,
     Complainant
     against
Docket #FIC 2011-281
Vicki L. Shotland, Executive Director,
Greater Hartford Transit District; and
Greater Hartford Transit District,
     Respondents
March 14, 2012

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 18, 2011, 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 dated May 31, 20111  and filed June 1, 2011, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOI Act”) by failing to post a notice for a May 12, 2011 meeting on the respondent agency’s website twenty-four hours prior to the commencement of the meeting.  As part of his complaint, the complainant requested the imposition of civil penalties against the respondent executive director, two of the agency’s chairmen, a secretary, an assistant secretary, the treasurer and an assistant treasurer, as well as an order declaring any action taken at said meeting to be null and void. 

1
For purposes of clarity, the complainant’s letter seems to have been originally dated “17 May, 2011.” On the complaint, the “17” is crossed out and above it is inserted the number “31.”
3. In response to the complaint, the respondent agency filed a brief with the Commission, in which it requested that the Commission impose a civil penalty against the complainant for violation of §1-206(b)(2), G.S.
4. The complainant testified that he was not sure whether the meeting in question was a special meeting or a regular meeting, as such terms are defined by the FOI Act.
5. Section 1-225(c), G.S., provides as follows:
     The agenda of the regular meetings of every public agency, except for the General Assembly, shall be available to the public and shall be filed, not less than twenty-four hours before the meetings to which they refer, (1) in such agency's regular office or place of business, and (2) in the office of the Secretary of the State for any such public agency of the state, in the office of the clerk of such subdivision for any public agency of a political subdivision of the state or in the office of the clerk of each municipal member of any multitown district or agency.  For any such public agency of the state, such agenda shall be posted on the public agency’s and the Secretary of the State’s web sites.  Upon the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of a public agency present and voting, any subsequent business not included in such filed agendas may be considered and acted upon at such meetings.  (Emphasis supplied).
6. Section 1-225(d), G.S., provides, in relevant part, as follows: 
     Notice of each special meeting of every public agency, except for the General Assembly, either house thereof or any committee thereof, 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, and given not less than twenty-four hours prior to the time of such meeting by filing a notice of the time and place thereof in the office of the Secretary of the State for any such public agency of the state, in the office of the clerk of such subdivision for any public agency of a political subdivision of the state and in the office of the clerk of each municipal member for any multitown district or agency.  The secretary or clerk shall cause any notice received under this section to be posted in his office.  Such notice shall be given not less than twenty-four hours prior to the time of the special meeting; . . . .  The notice shall specify the time and place of the special meeting and the business to be transacted.  No other business shall be considered at such meetings by such public agency. . . .
7. It is found that the respondent agency’s May 12, 2011 meeting was a regular meeting.  It is further found that the respondents ensured that the notice for the May 12, 2011 meeting was available in the public agency’s office, as well as in the office of the clerk for each of the political subdivisions listed in paragraph 10, below, twenty-four hours prior to the start of the May 12, 2011 regular meeting. 
8. Accordingly, the only issue in this case is whether the respondent agency was required to post a notice for the May 12, 2011 meeting electronically, and this question is answered by whether the respondent agency is a state agency or a municipal agency.  The complainant contends that the respondent agency is a “quasi-state agency” chartered under state statute.  The respondents contend that they are more akin to a municipal corporation. 
9. The statutory scheme that enables municipalities to form transit districts is codified in §7-273b of Connecticut’s General Statutes under Title 7, entitled “Municipalities,” and provides in relevant part as follows:
     . . . .
     (d)  Any town, city or borough may, by itself or in cooperation with one or more other municipalities, form a transit district, in the manner and for the purposes hereinafter provided.  The district shall be a body corporate and politic, and may sue and be sued, plead and be impleaded, hold and convey real or personal property, adopt and alter a common seal, borrow on the faith and credit of the district for its purposes under this chapter. . . .
     . . . .
     (e) The legislative body of any municipality may vote to establish a transit district or to join with any one or more municipalities to form such a district. . . .
10.  It is found that the respondent agency is a governmental entity, which has been created by local government, is governed by a board of directors composed of members from the various participating municipalities, and exists to serve individuals residing within such municipalities.  At this time, it is found that the respondent agency serves the following sixteen municipalities:  Bloomfield, East Hartford, East Windsor, Enfield, Farmington, Granby, Hartford, Manchester, Newington, Rocky Hill, Simsbury, South Windsor, Vernon, West Hartford, Wethersfield and Windsor. 
11. It is further found that the fact that the legislature sought to deal with the statutory scheme referenced in paragraph 9, above, in a section of the General Statutes that deals specifically with municipalities lends support to the contention that the respondent agency is a municipal agency, rather than a state agency.  See Burke v. Fleet National Bank, 252 Conn. 1, 13, 742 A.2d 293 (1999) (title of statute is not determinative of, but may provide evidence of, statutory meaning). See also Attorney General Opinion (Apr. 30, 2008) (concluding that “[b]ecause. . . Transit Districts meet the criteria articulated by the Connecticut Supreme Court in State ex rel Maison v. Mitchell [155 Conn., 256 (1967)] and by this office in earlier opinions . . . , we conclude that they are political subdivisions of the State. . . .”; Ethics Advisory Opinion 1987-1 (providing an opinion to an attorney regarding the effect of his becoming a legislator on his ability to represent certain public agencies, and concluding, in part, that “[t]here appears no reason why a legislator. . . may not represent a redevelopment agency or transit district, which are essentially municipal agencies, authorized by State statutes.”).
12. Because it is found that the respondent agency is a municipal agency, it is further found that it had no obligation to post the notice for its May 12, 2011 regular meeting on its website.
13. It is therefore concluded that the respondents did not violate the provisions of the FOI Act. 
14. Because there is no violation, no civil penalty is warranted.
15. With regard to the respondents’ request that the Commission issue a civil penalty against the complainant for filing the instant appeal, §1-206(b)(2), G.S., provides in relevant part:
. . .   If the commission finds that a person has taken an appeal under this subsection frivolously, without reasonable grounds and solely for the purpose of harassing the agency from which the appeal has been taken, after such person has been given an opportunity to be heard at a hearing conducted in accordance with sections 4-176e to 4-184, inclusive, the commission may, in its discretion, impose against that person a civil penalty of not less than twenty dollars nor more than one thousand dollars.  The commission shall notify a person of a penalty levied against him pursuant to this subsection by written notice sent by certified or registered mail.  If a person fails to pay the penalty within thirty days of receiving such notice, the superior court for the judicial district of Hartford shall, on application of the commission, issue an order requiring the person to pay the penalty imposed. . . . (Emphasis supplied).

16.  With this stringent standard in mind, the Commission finds that the respondents have failed to prove that the complainant filed the instant appeal in violation of §1-206(b)(2), G.S.
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 March 14, 2012.
__________________________
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:
Bradshaw Smith
23 Ludlow Road
Windsor, CT  06095
Vicki L. Shotland, Executive Director,
Greater Hartford Transit District
One Union Place
Hartford, CT  06103
Greater Hartford Transit District
c/o Douglas W. Gillette, Esq.
Day Pitney LLP
242 Trumbull Street
Hartford, CT  06103
____________________________
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC/2011-281/FD/cac/3/14/2012