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Final Decision FIC2012-627
In the Matter of a Complaint by
David Godbout,
Docket #FIC 2012-627
Citation Hearing Office, Hartford Parking
Authority; and Hartford Parking Authority,
September 11, 2013

     The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 3, 2013, 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 Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Commission takes administrative notice of the fact that the Citation Hearing Office is a division of the Hartford Parking Authority, which is a body politic separate from the City of Hartford.  The caption to this matter has been amended accordingly.
     2.  The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of §1-200(1), G.S.
     3.  By letter filed November 5, 2012, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the FOI Act by prohibiting him from attending the citation hearings meeting on November 1, 2012.
     4.  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...
     5.  Section 1-225(a), G.S., provides, in relevant part:  “The meetings of all public agencies … shall be open to the public.” 
     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 respondents conducted the citation hearings meeting on November 1, 2012 according to their customary practice, which is behind a closed and locked door.  It is found that entry to the hearings was by a buzzer controlled by a clerk seated behind a thick plastic panel.  It is found that the respondents permitted entry only to the person whose citation was under consideration, and that a large security guard escorted the person through the door, which closed and locked behind them.
     8.  It is found that the complainant asked the clerk seated behind the plastic panel whether he could attend proceedings other than his own citation hearing.  It is found that the clerk refused his request and told the complainant to contact the respondents’ corporation counsel to discuss the issue further, if he wished.
     9.  It is found that when the complainant finally did gain entry to the hearing at the call of his matter, he observed that there was enough space in the meeting room for several people to observe the proceedings.
     10. The respondents claim that their closed sessions are justified based on the federal Drivers Privacy Protection Act (“DPPA”), 18 USC 2721, which provides in pertinent part:
(a) Except as provided in subsection (b), a State department of motor vehicles, and any officer, employee, or contractor, thereof, shall not knowingly disclose or otherwise make available to any person or entity personal information about any individual obtained by the department in connection with a motor vehicle record.
(b) Personal information referred to in subsection (a) … may be disclosed as follows:
(1)  For use by any government agency, including any court or law enforcement agency, in carrying out its functions, or any private person or entity acting on behalf of a Federal, State, or local agency in carrying out its functions…
(2)  For use in connection with matters of motor vehicle or driver safety…
(4)   For use in connection with any civil, criminal, administrative, or arbitral proceeding in any Federal, State, or local court or agency …
     11. It is found that the DPPA applies only to a state department of motor vehicles, and the respondents are not such an agency.
     12. It is found, moreover, that the DPPA permits personal information to be disclosed for use by any government agency, for use in connection with matters of motor vehicle or driver safety, or for use in connection with any administrative proceeding in any local agency.
     13. It is found that the respondents are a government agency, that the citation hearings concern matters of motor vehicle or driver safety, and that the citation hearings are an administrative proceeding in a local agency, all within the meaning of the DPPA.
     14. It is concluded that the DPPA does not support the respondents’ closed meeting.
     15. Furthermore, it is found that the citation hearings in question – concerning parking violations – do not disclose any personal information other than the driver’s name and perhaps type of motor vehicle.
     16. It is concluded that the respondents violated §1-225(a), G.S., as alleged.
     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), G.S.
     2. Henceforth, the respondents shall also comply with the notice and minutes of meetings requirements set forth in §1-225, G.S.
     3. The respondents are strongly urged to contact the Public Education Office of the Commission to arrange for help in providing access to the citation hearings consistent with the requirements of the FOI Act.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of September 11, 2013.
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission
David Godbout
15 Cardinal Road
East Lyme, CT  06333
Citation Hearing Office, Hartford Parking Authority;
and Hartford Parking Authority
c/o Demar G. Osbourne, Esq.
Office of the Corporation Counsel
550 Main Street
Room 210
Hartford, CT  06103
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission