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Final Decision FIC2013-205
In the Matter of a Complaint by
FINAL DECISION
Paul Baer,
     Complainant
     against
Docket #FIC 2013-205
John Bell, Chairman, Fire Advisory
Committee, Town of Thompson; and Fire
Advisory Committee, Town of Thompson,
     Respondents
December 18, 2013

     The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on August 20, 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of §1-200(1), G.S.
     2.  On March 18, 2013, the complainant requested copies of all of the Fire Advisory Committee’s agendas and minutes, and the committee’s meeting schedule of 2013.
     3.  By letter filed April 8, 2013, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to provide him with copies of the records he requested.  In addition, the complainant alleged that Fire Advisory Committee meeting agendas, meeting minutes, and schedules of regular meetings were not available in the town clerk’s office.  The complainant requested the imposition of a civil penalty.
     4.  Section 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.
     5.  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…
     6.  It is concluded that the records requested by the complainant are public records within the meaning of §§1-200(5) and 1-210(a), G.S.
     7.  With respect to the complainant’s request for agendas, it is found that the complainant received hard date-stamped copies of the October and November 2012 agendas from the clerk’s office.
     8.  It is found that the respondents do not maintain copies of any of the other agendas that the complainant requested.  It is found that the respondents do maintain copies of agendas for meetings that occurred after the complainant’s request, and that such agendas are available at the town clerk’s office and on the town’s website.
     9.  With respect to the complainant’s request for minutes, §1-225(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:
The votes of each member of any such public agency upon any issue before such public agency shall be reduced to writing and made available for public inspection within forty-eight hours and shall also be recorded in the minutes of the session at which taken. Not later than seven days after the date of the session to which such minutes refer, such minutes shall be available for public inspection and posted on such public agency’s Internet web site, if available, except that no public agency of a political subdivision of the state shall be required to post such minutes on an Internet website.  Each public agency shall make, keep and maintain a record of the proceedings of its meetings.
     10. It is found that the respondents did not create or maintain any minutes for any of their meetings as of the time of the complainant’s request.
     11. “The responsibility to create minutes and make them available for public inspection is a continuing one and that the failure to meet such responsibility is a continuing violation...”  See William J. Beach v. Chairman, Winsted Zoning Board of Appeals and Winchester Building Inspector, Docket #FIC 1988-362 (December 14, 1988).  See also Cynthia A. Keist and Deft J. Keist v. Public Safety Commission, Town of Cheshire; Docket #FIC 2012-548 (July 10, 2013).
     12. It is concluded that the respondents violated §1-225(a), G.S., by failing to create and maintain minutes of their meetings.
     13. With respect to the 2013 meeting schedule of regular meetings, §1-225(b), G.S., provides in relevant part:
The chairperson or secretary of any such public agency of any political subdivision of the state shall file, not later than January thirty-first of each year, with the clerk of such subdivision the schedule of regular meetings of such public agency for the ensuing year[.]
     14. It is found that the clerk does maintain a schedule of the committee’s regular meetings for 2013.  
     15. It is found that soon after the complainant’s appeal to this Commission, the committee’s chairman resigned.  It is found that the new chair of the committee is working to learn the committee’s obligations under the FOI Act.  It is found that the agendas and minutes of the committee’s June and July 2013 meetings are available on the town’s website. 
     16. After consideration of the record in this case, the Commission declines to consider the imposition of civil penalties against the respondents.
     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 adhere to the requirements of §1-225(a), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of December 18, 2013.

__________________________
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
John Bell, Chairman, Fire Advisory Committee, Town of Thompson;
and Fire Advisory Committee, Town of Thompson
c/o Larry Groh, Jr. and John Bell
P.O. Box 899
North Grosvenordale, CT  06255

____________________________
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC/2013-205/FD/cac/12/18/2013