FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Susan M. Stone,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 86-51

 

Public Information/Public Advocacy Office of the City and Town of New Haven,

 

Respondent April 9, 1986

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 19, 1986, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.

 

After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found:

 

1. The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. On or about June 1, 1984 the City of New Haven filed suit against Camp, Dresser & McKee, Inc., a consulting engineering firm, in connection with the construction of the "East Shore wastewater treatment plant." On or about July 4, 1984 the City filed suit against Zimpro, Inc. in connection with the same matter.

 

3. By letter dated February 10, 1986 the complainant made a request of the respondent for copies of all invoices from any attorney or law firm, including the firm of Beveridge and Diamond, retained or consulted by the City of New Haven in conjunction with any legal proceeding connected with the construction of the "East Shore sewage treatment plant." The complainant stated that any information other than the name of the attorney or law firm submitting the invoice and the total amount of the invoice could be deleted.

 

4.     By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on February 28, 1986 the complainant appealed the failure of the respondent to respond to her February 10, 1986 request.

 

Docket #FIC 86-51 Page Two

 

5. At hearing, the parties asked that the Commission take administrative notice of the record created in FIC #85-115, Randall Reeves v. Office of the Corporation Counsel of the City and Town of New Haven and the City and Town of New Haven. FIC #85-115 involved the same records and the same respondent as are involved in this matter.

 

6. At the hearing in FIC #85-115 the respondent offered the records in question for examination in camera, which offer was declined by the Commission.

 

7. The respondent claims that disclosure of information other than the names of counsel is exempted from disclosure by 1-19(b)(4), G.S., on the ground that knowledge of the cost of litigation to an opposing party would be an important negotiating tool. The respondent cites as support for this claim the fact that the complainant is employed by a law firm which represents Zimpro, Inc. and claims that the absence of a reciprocal obligation would give an impermissible advantage to opposing parties, including Zimpro.

 

8. It is found that an invoice reflecting nothing more than the identity of counsel and the total amount of each invoice is not a record pertaining to strategy and negotiations within the meaning of 1-19(b)(4), G.S.

 

9. The respondent also claims that a determination by the Commission that the requested records are not potentially beneficial to Zimpro could be used to resist discovery attempts by the City in the context of litigation.

 

10. It is found that the claimed, speculative, advantage to Zimpro with respect to defending discovery attempts does not permit the respondent to refuse to disclose otherwise non-exempt records.

 

11. The respondent also claims that an exemption for an attorney's "work-product" has been read into the federal Freedom of Information Act, 5 USC 552(b)(5), that the requested records are in the nature of an attorney's "work-product," and that a similar exemption should be read into Connecticut's Act.

 

12. The respondent failed to prove its claim that the submission of a bill to a client, which bill would reveal only the name of the attorney and the amount, is an effort which could be considered "work-product" within the meaning of 5 USC 552(b)(5) or that such an exemption should be read into Connecticut's Freedom of Information Act.

 

Docket #FIC 86-51 Page Three

 

13. The respondent failed to prove that the requested records are exempted from disclosure by any provision of the Freedom of Information Act, other state statute or federal law.

 

14. It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., when it denied the complainant's request for invoices for legal services pertaining to the East Shore wastewater treatment plant.

 

The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint.

 

1. The respondent shall forthwith provide the complainant with copies of invoices for services rendered by the law firm of Beveridge and Diamond and by any other law firm or attorney retained for the purpose of litigating claims pertaining to the East Shore wastewater treatment plant.

 

2. The respondent may, prior to releasing such records, delete or mask information other than the name of the attorney or law firm submitting the invoice and the total amount of the invoice.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of April 9, 1986.

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission