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Gerckens: Derby Needs To Follow Open Government Rules

by Eugene Driscoll | Feb 6, 2017 3:54 pm

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Posted to: Derby, Your Right To Know

CORRECTION: Derby Alderman Art Gerckens contacted the Valley Indy Tuesday morning and said he mistakenly said “minutes” repeatedly during the Jan. 26 Derby Board of Aldermen meeting. Gerkens said his request was not for minutes — but for the audio recording of the meeting. The story has been updated, and Gerckens wrote a letter explaining the mistake.

Second Ward Alderman Art Gerckens said he had a hard time tracking down and obtaining meeting minutes an audio recording connected to the city’s baseball field relocation committee.

The committee, comprised of various elected officials, along with city staff and appointed volunteers, is trying to decide where a new Derby High School baseball field should go.

They’re doing that because last year the city was given $2.9 million from the state’s bond commission for a new track and turf field at the Leo F. Ryan Athletic Complex on Chatfield Street.

Also, last month a woman donated $2 million for a new field house at the same complex.

So the city has to reshuffle its athletic fields to make room for the new track, turf field, and field house.

At a Derby Board of Aldermen meeting Jan. 26, Gerckens said he had tried to get meeting minutes (Gerckens said Feb. 7 he had tried to get an audio recording) from the committee at some point in October. He said it wasn’t clear whether the school district or the town clerk had the minutes.

He learned he had to go to the school district — but Gerckens said it took some 20 days to actually obtain copies of the minutes.

“It’s just one of those things that I caution . . . we don’t know who’s running this thing,” Gerckens said to First Ward Alderwoman Barbara DeGennaro during the meeting. “Is it board of ed? Is it the city . . . It’s very confusing and I don’t think that’s been definitively answered. And I don’t think the public should have to wait a long period of time before they get to inspect the record of your meetings.”

Click the play button on the YouTube player to listen to the discussion from the Jan. 26 meeting.

DeGennaro is also the chairwoman of the baseball field relocation committee.

DeGennaro told Gerckens Mayor Anita Dugatto appointed members to the committee, and that a school district employee is responsible for writing minutes from the meetings.

“(Derby Public Schools Superintendent) Dr. Conway is one of the lead catalysts with the committee,” DeGennaro said. “His office, his secretary, she does the minutes. The tape is brought to his secretary. She does the minutes. As far as I know, they get to (Derby Town Clerk) Marc (Garofalo). I’m not in charge of the minutes. I mean, I’m not the keeper of the record.”

Gerckens said the public needs to know where to go to get information, and the public needs to get minutes in a timely manner.

“I’m asking so we get this cleared out. The city hall is the repository for the record. We shouldn’t have to be fishing to find out and then take 23 some odd days to get this,” Gerckens said.

DeGennaro said the minutes from her committee’s meetings should be up to date.

“The last I knew the minutes were up to date. We just approved the last meeting minutes tonight, so that would not be posted anywhere,” she said.

DeGennaro indicated minutes being filed on time are an issue within city government.

“I’m not badgering other committees in the city, but a lot of minutes don’t get recorded in a timely manner. That’s not an excuse but they’re there. All of them are on file as far as I know, except for the December meeting because we just approved the minutes tonight,” she said.

However, state law says meeting minutes must be available seven days after a meeting, regardless of whether they’ve been approved by the government.

Furthermore, any votes taken are to be put in writing and made public within 48 hours.

The following images are from the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act. The story continues after the images.

DeGennaro said she would check to make sure the minutes from the baseball field relocation committee are being filed with the Derby Town Clerk’s office.

Derby Town Clerk Marc Garofalo said the problem with the baseball relocation committee’s meeting minutes have been resolved.

“As a result of your inquiry we made sure to straighten that out,” Garofalo told Gerckens.

Meeting minutes are not required by law to be posted on the web. State government tried that a few years back, but local governments complained it was too much work.

However, Garofalo said Derby posts all meeting minutes on the city website.

“What we have goes on the website. So if it’s not there, that means we don’t have it,” Garofalo said.

Here is a list of some Derby committees and commissions, and whether minutes are available.

Derby Board of Aldermen
Last meeting was Jan. 26
Minutes are four days late as of Feb. 6

Baseball Relocation Committee meeting
Last meeting was Jan. 30
Minutes available

Aldermen Blight Committee
Last meeting was Jan. 10
Minutes available

Aldermen Community Relations Committee
Last meeting was Jan. 10
Minutes available

Aldermen Operations and Procedures Committee
Last meeting was Jan. 10, according to an agenda.
No minutes available
“No current content” Derby website reads

Alderman Road Bond Committee
Last meeting was Dec. 2016
Minutes available

Derby Board of Apportionment and Taxation
Last meeting was Jan. 17.
Minutes available

Capital Planning
No meetings listed so far in 2017
Minutes from two meetings in July available

Charter Revision
Last meeting Aug. 31
Minutes available

Commission for the Elderly
No 2017 meetings listed

Housing Authority
No agendas or meeting minutes listed in city website
City website marks it as “under construction”

Infrastructure Committee
No 2017 meetings listed on city’s “archived minutes” page
But city calendar indicates last meeting was Jan. 18.
No minutes on city website
Almost three weeks late

Planning and Zoning
Last meeting was Jan. 17
Minutes available

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