FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

William Tronosky, Jr., Michael J. Fox, Frank L. DeMaio and Barbara L. DeMaio,

 

Complainants

 

against Docket #FIC 86-170

 

Newington Volunteer Fire Department,

 

Respondent October 22, 1986

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 16, 1986, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.

 

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

 

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

 

2. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on June 10, 1986 the complainants alleged that they had been denied prompt access to records relating to bank account #12857. The account, entitled "Newington Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chiefs," contains monies received from the State of Connecticut, pursuant to 13a-248, G.S., for calls responded to by the Newington Volunteer Fire Department ("NVFD") on the Berlin Turnpike. The complainants requested the imposition of a civil penalty against the respondent.

 

3. On May 12, 1986, at approximately 6:00 p.m. the complainants appeared at the NVFD headquarters and requested, in writing, access to and copies of "any and all records as pertains to account number 12857." The NVFD's secretary telephoned the chairman of the board of fire commissioners for authorization and the chairman contacted the town attorney. The chairman arrived at headquarters at approximately 7:00 p.m. and informed the complainants that the records were under the control of the chief of the fire department and that, based upon his conversation with the town attorney, he believed that he had up to 4 days to provide access to the records.

 

Docket #FIC 86-170 Page Two

 

4. While the complainants and the chairman discussed the request, the chief of the NVFD appeared and agreed to show the complainants the records. After taking out the box containing the check book and examining the contents, the chief limited access to the file to the extent that some of the records pertained to accounts other than #12857.

 

5. Following their inspection of the records the complainants limited their request for copies to the period "from January, 1985 to present."

 

6. The complainant Fox received the copies requested on May 14, 1986.

 

7. On May 14, 1986 the chief informed the complainant Barbara DeMaio, in response to a written inquiry, that the NVFD'S financial records were kept by the Town of Newington's finance director, in the town hall, and that all other records could be obtained from the chief or his designate on Monday evenings.

 

8. Section 1-19(a), G.S. requires, however, that every person shall have the right to inspect public records "promptly during regular office or business hours."

 

9. The Town of Newington's finance director does not maintain any records of the account in question.

 

10. On May 19, 1986 at approximately 7:00 p.m. the complainants Tronosky, Fox and Barbara DeMaio went to the NVFD's headquarters and again asked to see the chief to inspect and to copy the records of account #12857. The purpose of the complainants' request was to verify that the copies they had been given were true copies of account #12857.

 

11. The complainants were told that the chief was unavailable due to illness. The deputy chief of the NVFD told the complainants that he had a meeting to attend but would accommodate their request when the meeting adjourned. The deputy chief telephoned the complainants at 9:50 p.m., but the complainants, who received the message at approximately 10:05 p.m., did not pursue the matter further, due to the late hour.

 

12. On June 2, 1986 the complainant Barbara DeMaio again requested, in writing, access to inspect and possibly copy all records pertaining to account #12857 and was immediately given such access. She did not make a request to copy any of the documents at such time.

 

13. It is found that, notwithstanding the reservations of the chief of the fire department and of the chairman of the board of fire commissioners, on May 12, 1986 the complainants were granted prompt access to records relating to account #12857.

 

Docket #FIC 86-170 Page Three

 

14. It is also found that the respondent's response to the complainants' May 19, 1986 request to inspect documents did not violate 1-15 or 1-19(a), G.S. The respondent made a reasonable attempt to cooperate, as evidenced by the deputy chief's telephone call to the complainants at 9:50 p.m. and by the willingness of the respondent to provide access when the complainants renewed their request on June 2, 1986.

 

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 make its records available promptly for inspection and for copying by any person during its regular office or business hours.

 

2. The complaint is hereby dismissed to the extent that it alleges that the complainants were denied prompt access to public records on May 12, 1986 and May 19, 1986.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of October 22, 1986.

 

Karen J. Haggett

Acting Clerk of the Commission