In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION


James S. Connery, Jr.


Complainant Docket #FIC 86-96




Mayor of the City of Shelton and Corporation Counsel of the City of Shelton


Respondents June 3, 1986


The above captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 29, 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 section 1-18a(a), G.S.

2. The complainant sought and was denied access to inspect and to copy the personal property declarations of the city of Shelton on April 1, 1986.


3. The complainant alleged that the declarations were public records and that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information Act by denying him access.



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4. The respondent claims that the records are exempt because disclosure would constitute an invasion of privacy since the forms, which were provided the city by the office of policy and management, are stamped confidential, and because disclosure of the information contained on the forms would disclose trade secrets and invade personal privacy.


5. The personal property declarations sought by the complainant are set forth on forms provided to the town by the office of policy and management pursuant to 12-41(g), G.S.


6. The forms on one side are titled "Taxable Personal Property List - City of Shelton" and on the other "Confidential Information Report for Manufacturers and Professional Businesses."


7. The listing of personal property for the purpose of tax assessment is required under Chapter 203,  12-40 et seq., G.S.


8. 12-42 provides that residents liable to give in a list and pay taxes therein shall do so on the first day of November of every year.


9. 12-55 specifically provides that:


[w]hen such lists have been so completed, the assessors shall arrange such lists in alphabetical order and lodge the same, except as otherwise specially provided by law, in the town clerk's or assessor's office, on or before the thirty-first day of January, for public inspection.


10. It is found that no exemption for the lists exists under 1-19(b): no provision therein permits an exemption to be created by marking a document confidential; furthermore, since the records are not personnel, medical, or similar files 1-19(b)(2), G.S. is not applicable.


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11. It is further found that the respondents failed to prove that the records sought by the complainant are exempt as trade secrets within the meaning of 1-19(b)(5), G.S.


12. It is concluded, therefore, that the records sought by the complainant herein are public records and are subject to disclosure both under 12-55 and 1-15, and 1-19(a), G.S.


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

1. The respondent shall henceforth provide the complainant with access to inspect, to copy, or to receive copies of the personal property declarations which he seeks.


Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 28, 1986.


Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission