FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Charles A. Mazur,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 86-290

 

Director of Personnel, Superintendent of Schools, Assistant to Superintendent of Schools, Assistant Superintendent of Schools and Board of Education of Stamford Public Schools,

 

Respondents January 28, 1987

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 10, 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. By letter dated August 15, 1986 the complainant made a request of the respondent personnel director for copies of the application, employment contract and teaching certificates of John J. Morris.

 

3. On or about August 26, 1986 the respondent assistant to the superintendent, Allen G. Grafton, forwarded the complainant a copy of Mr. Morris's certification papers and teaching contract. Mr. Grafton advised the complainant that the school board's attorney was being consulted regarding disclosure of Mr. Morris's application for employment.

 

4. By letter to Mr. Grafton dated September 5, 1986 the complainant renewed his request for a copy of the application and asked for copies of Mr. Morris's provisional elementary certificate and the board of education's "monthly report." The complainant also posed seven questions regarding the hiring of a fifth grade teacher at Stillmeadow Elementary School.

 

Docket #FIC 86-290 Page Two

 

5. On or about September 25, 1986 the complainant made requests of the respondents for copies of the following additional documents relating to Mr. Morris:

 

a) all "professional support documents;"

b) employment records, including dates of employment and

salaries;

c) all employment applications; and

d) written professional recommendations

 

6. On October 6, 1986 the complainant filed a complaint with the Commission, supplemented by a letter dated October 10, 1986, alleging violations of the Freedom of Information Act by the respondents.

 

7. On or about October 14, 1986 Mr. Grafton provided the complainant with copies of the following documents:

 

a) Mr. Morris's resume and job application;

b) the board of education's monthly report;

c) board of education policies 9311 and 9313; and

d) the provisional certificates for the positions of secondary principal and administrative assistant to the superintendent

 

8. It is found that the complainant has been provided with all professional support documents, employment records and employment applications relating to Mr. Morris. The respondents' files on Mr. Morris do not contain any written professional recommendations or a provisional elementary certificate.

 

9. On October 14, 1986 the complainant appeared at a meeting of the respondent board and requested copies of "Stamford Ordinance No. 445 Supplemental," the posted listing of elementary teaching positions and the recall list. At hearing the respondents agreed to respond to such additional requests, waiving their right to require the complainant to file another complaint. The respondents do not, however, have a recall list.

 

10. It is found that Mr. Morris's personnel file is recorded on microfilm and that Mr. Grafton spent several hours reviewing such file for the requested records. The respondents also spent several hours researching the answers to the series of questions posed by the complainant.

 

11. At hearing the respondents requested the imposition of a civil penalty against the complainant pursuant to 1-21i(b), G.S., on the grounds that his appeal was taken frivolously, without reasonable grounds and solely for the purpose of harassing the respondents.

 

Docket #FIC 86-290 Page Three

 

12. It is found that as of the date of his complaint to the Commission the complainant had not received all documents requested, some of which had been requested as early as August 15, 1986, and had received no indication that the records were forthcoming.

 

13. It is concluded that the complainant's appeal was not taken frivolously, without reasonable grounds and solely for the purpose of harassing the respondents. The respondents' request for the imposition of a civil penalty is, therefore, denied.

 

14. The respondents claim that because the complainant's requests were made at the busiest time of the school year their response was delayed, but that they complied with the requests as quickly as possible, under the circumstances. The respondents also claim that the necessity of researching information to answer the complainant's inquiries and the difficulty of construing the complainant's requests slowed the process of producing records.

 

15. It is found that the respondents' efforts to respond to the questions posed by the complainant are commendable. Such efforts, however, are not required by the Freedom of Information Act and do not excuse a failure to meet the requirements of the Act.

 

16. It is found that the exigencies of the new school year and the imprecision of the complainant's requests, which were interspersed with confusing commentary and requests for answers to questions, in some measure accounted for the long delay in responding to portions of the requests.

 

17. However, the respondents' delays of from 3 weeks to 2 months in providing copies of the respondent board's monthly report and Mr. Morris's resume and employment application, the requests for which were stated with relative clarity, violated 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 respondents henceforth shall act in strict compliance with the terms of 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of January 28, 1987.

 

Catherine I. Hostetter

Acting Clerk of the Commission