FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Henry E. Buermeyer,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 86-223

 

City Clerk and City Attorney of the City of Groton,

 

Respondents December 16, 1986

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 11, 1986, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.

 

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

 

1. The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. On or about June 19, 1986 the City of Groton entered into a contract for the purchase, from George E. Vail and Adrianna L. Vail, of property known as 143, 147 and 151 Thames Street, Groton, for the sum of $400,000. The purchase of the property was contingent upon the approval of the Freemen of the City of Groton.

 

3. A special meeting of the Freemen of the City of Groton was scheduled for July 28, 1986 to discuss the proposed purchase of the Thames Street property. At such meeting the City Attorney announced that, based upon negative public comment, the owners of the property had decided to terminate the contract for the sale of the Thames Street property. Earlier on July 28, 1986 the City of Groton and Mr. and Mrs. Vail had executed an agreement cancelling the contract for purchase.

 

4. By letter dated July 29, 1986 the complainant made a request of the respondent city clerk for a copy of the agreement cancelling the purchase contract, a copy of the contract and a copy of any real estate appraisals of the Thames Street property.

 

5. By letter dated July 31, 1986 the respondent city clerk notified the complainant that his request for records had been forwarded to the respondent city attorney.

 

Docket #FIC 86-223 Page Two

 

6. By letter dated July 31, 1986 the respondent city attorney forwarded to the complainant copies of the purchase contract and the agreement cancelling the purchase contract. The respondent city attorney did not provide the real estate appraisal "because no final appraisal was ever produced." The respondent city attorney indicated, however, that the total value of the property was estimated to be approximately $280,000.

 

7. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on August 11, 1986 the complainant appealed the respondents' failure to provide the requested real estate appraisal.

 

8. The respondents claim that the appraisers never authorized release of the Thames Street report, that release of the "draft" report could harm the Vails' property "on a questionable factual basis" and that a determination had therefore been made that the public interest in withholding the drafts and notes outweighed the public interest in disclosure.

 

9. It is found that on or about July 23, 1986 the Miner & Silverstein Appraisal Company submitted a bill in the amount of $1,000 to the respondent city attorney for "[a]ppraisal and 4 copies of Narrative report for property located at Thames Street, Groton, CT." On or about July 31, 1986 the respondent city attorney directed the finance director of the City of Groton to pay Miner & Silverstein for such appraisal.

 

10. It is found that the appraisal of the Thames Street property, completed by Miner & Silverstein and submitted to the City of Groton at a cost to the City of $1,000, is not a preliminary draft or note within the meaning of 1-19(b)(1), G.S.

 

11. The respondents also claim that the appraisal is exempted from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(7), G.S., on the ground that the City of Groton may still be interested in obtaining the property.

 

12. The respondents, however, failed to prove that at the time of the complainant's request for records there was pending any proceeding or transaction for the acquisition, by the City of Groton, of the Vails' Thames Street property.

 

13. It is concluded that the appraisal of the Thames Street property, submitted to the respondent city attorney by Miner & Silverstein, is not exempted from disclosure by 1-19(b)(7), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 86-223 Page Three

 

14. The respondents failed to prove that the appraisal was exempted from disclosure by any other provision of the Freedom of Information Act, other state statute or federal law.

 

15. It is concluded that the respondent city attorney violated 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S. when he failed to provide the complainant with a copy of the appraisal of the Thames Street property which was the subject of the June 19, 1986 purchase agreement.

 

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

 

1. The respondent city attorney shall forthwith provide the complainant with a copy of the appraisal performed by Miner & Silverstein on property owned by George E. and Adrianna L. Vail at 143, 147 and 151 Thames Street, Groton, Connecticut.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of December 16, 1986

 

Catherine I. Hostetter

Acting Clerk of the Commission