FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Richard M. Griest,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 86-239

 

State of Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles and Driver Licensing Division, State of Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles,

 

Respondents December 16, 1986

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 25, 1986, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.

 

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

 

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

 

2. By letter dated August 15, 1986 the complainant made a request of the respondent for access to "audit" accident reports required by 14-108, G.S., for information relating to Safeco Insurance Companies. The complainant proposed inspecting the files covering the five years prior to his request and dictating the information into a recorder.

 

3. By letter dated August 21, 1986 the respondent informed the complainant that the information sought could be contained in any of an estimated 340,000 files and that to ensure that no confidential information was released, such files would have to be searched by employees of the respondent. Pursuant to 14-50a, G.S., the complainant would be charged $4.50 for each accident file searched, at the total cost of approximately $1,530,000.

 

4. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on August 26, 1986 the complainant appealed the respondent's failure to provide direct access to inspect its files, at no cost.

 

Docket #FIC 86-239 Page Two

 

5. The respondent claims that the complainant's request is governed by 14-50a(a), G.S., which provides that "[t]he following fees shall be charged by the commissioner of motor vehicles for the item or service indicated: . . . 5. Each search of the [respondent's] accident record files made pursuant to a request for a copy of an accident report which results in no document being produced, $3.00. On and after July 1, 1985, the fee shall be $4.50."

 

6. It is found that the complainant has not requested copies of accident reports and that the provisions of 14-50a(a)(5), G.S. are therefore not applicable. The respondent indicated at hearing that it does not charge for the production of a file for inspection only.

 

7. The respondent does not claim that accident reports are not disclosable, but maintains that it cannot allow the complainant direct access to its files, in the interest of protecting the integrity of the files and of protecting potentially exempt information from disclosure.

 

8. Section 1-19(a), G.S., provides that every person shall have the right to inspect public records promptly, but does not require a public agency to grant direct access to its files such as has been requested by the complainant.

 

9. It is concluded that the respondent did not violate 1-19(a), G.S., when it failed to provide the complainant direct access to its files for the purpose of inspecting accident reports.

 

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

 

1. The complaint is hereby dismissed.

 

2. The Commission notes that the decision herein is limited strictly to the issue of whether the respondent violated 1-19(a), G.S., by denying the complainant direct access to its files, as requested.

 

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