In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION


Nancy Burton,




against Docket #FIC 87-4


Conservation Commission of the Town of Redding and Reeve K. Biggers, Chairman, Conservation Commission of the Town of Redding,


Respondents August 12, 1987


The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 17, 1987, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.


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


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


2. The complainant alleged she was denied prompt access to records of the respondent commission and requested that a civil penalty be imposed on the chairman of the respondent, Reeve K. Biggers.


3. On December 16, 1986, during regular office hours of the respondent commission, the complainant requested access to inspect a file maintained by the respondent commission denominated the "Wurstle file."


4. On the day of the complainant's request, the secretary, who was busy preparing to leave for her three week vacation, felt she did not have time to make the records available.


5. The secretary told the complainant that she could inspect the file when the office reopened on January 6, 1987.


6. In so doing the secretary relied upon the opinion of respondent Reeve K. Biggers, who in turn relied upon the opinion of his attorney, that the law did not require that the records be produced until the office reopened.


Docket #FIC 87-4 page two


7. Chairman Biggers had decided that it was not necessary to hire temporary personnel to keep the office open during the time the regular secretary was on vacation.


8. At all times relevant to this complaint the Chairman had access to the records sought by the complainant.


9. It is found that the complainant did not receive prompt access to the "Wurstle file" and that failure to provide her with prompt access violated the requirement for prompt access at 1-19(a), G.S.


10. On December 23, 1986, the complainant requested access to inspect the "Homes B.C. file."


11. Access to the "Homes B.C. file" was denied by respondent Biggers until January 6, 1987, when the secretary reopened the office for regular office hours.


12. It is found that the complainant was denied prompt access to the "Homes B.C. file" by respondent Biggers.


13. It is found that respondent Biggers controlled the operations of the respondent commission and was responsible for the decision not to provide the complainant with access to the requested files until January 6, 1987.


14. It is further found that respondent Biggers' denial of access was without reasonable grounds.


15. When the complainant was denied access to the file, respondent Biggers stated that the complainant must give advance notice and make an appointment in order to receive access to records under the Freedom of Information Act.


16. Respondent Biggers admitted at hearing that he could not lawfully impose such conditions on access to records.


17. It is found that since no conditions were imposed upon the complainant there was no violation of law with respect to the imposition of improper preconditions on access to records.


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


1. The Commission hereby imposes a civil penalty against respondent Reeve K. Biggers, chairman of the respondent commission, in the amount of twenty-five dollars ($25.00).


Docket #FIC 87-4 page three


2. The payment shall be tendered by Reeve K. Biggers at the offices of the Freedom of Information Commission within thirty days of the mailing of the notice of final decision incorporating this order.


3. The Commission encourages the chairman to become better informed regarding the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.


Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of August 12, 1987.


Catherine I. Hostetter

Acting Clerk of the Commission