FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Frank G. Kiss,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 87-56

 

Stamford Police Department and Chief, Stamford Police Department,

 

Respondents June 10, 1987

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 7, 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. On February 11, 1987 the complainant hand-delivered a letter to the respondent chief in which he requested copies of 15 categories of public records.

 

3. On February 11, 1987 the respondents replied in writing to the complainant's request, indicating that the requested records comprised several hundred pages, that compliance would "take some time" and that a fee of $.25 per page would be charged. The respondent chief requested confirmation from the complainant that he was willing to incur the copying expense.

 

4. On February 18, 1987, first orally and then in writing, the complainant inquired into the progress of compliance with his request. As of that date, the complainant had not confirmed his willingness to incur the copying expenses and the respondents had not provided the complainant with any records.

 

5. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on March 3, 1987 the complainant appealed the respondents' failure to provide the copies requested.

 

Docket #FIC 87-56 Page Two

 

6. On or about March 24, 1987, and again on April 7, 1987, the complainant received copies of certain of the requested records.

 

7. As of the date of hearing, the complainant was not satisfied with the respondents' response to his request for the following records:

 

a. Any records received from or sent to the FBI concerning the complainant or his wife from 1966 to the present;

 

b. Records of wiretaps of the complainant's telephone from 1966 to the present;

 

c. Records of background investigations of the complainant;

 

d. Photographs or information relating to photographs taken of the complainant's wife without her knowledge, from 1967 to the present; and

 

e. The curriculum and subject-matter of instruction of the Stamford Police Academy.

 

8. It is found that the respondents have conducted a search of the records of the respondent department and that the records referred to at paragraphs 7a, b, c and d, above, do not exist.

 

9. It is concluded that the respondents did not violate 1-15 or 1-19(a), G.S. when they failed to provide the complainant with the records referred to at paragraphs 7a, b, c and d, above.

 

10. The respondents claim that the delay in responding to the complainant's request for records was due to the breadth of the request and the necessity of conducting research to determine whether the requested records in fact existed.

 

11. It is found that among the records requested were items such as the law enforcement code of ethics, the police officers' and chief's oaths of office, minutes of police commission hearings and correspondence.

 

12. It is found that to the extent that the complainant requested readily-identifiable and accessible records, a delay of approximately 6 weeks in providing such records violated 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 87-56 Page Three

 

13. It is found with respect to the records referred to at paragraph 7e, above, that the respondents believed that the complainant was requesting the contents of the materials studied at the police academy, when in fact the complainant wanted only a list of the subjects or categories of study. Such list was, prior to hearing, provided to the complainant. On March 31, 1987 the complainant made a request of the respondents for access to inspect the materials covered by 11 subjects.

 

14. It is found that the respondents' delay in responding to the complainant's request for the records referred to at paragraph 7e, above, resulted from an ambiguity in the request. Given the respondents' reasonable misunderstanding of the request, it did not violate 1-15 or 1-19(a), G.S. to postpone compliance with the request pending confirmation from the complainant.

 

15. It is further found that the complainant's March 31, 1987 request for access to specific bodies of material within the subjects covered at the police academy is an additional request not encompassed by his February 11, 1987 letter and not included in the complaint which is the subject of this hearing.

 

16. The Commission notes that the respondents, at hearing, expressed their willingness to provide the complainant with the requested access. The Commission also notes with approval the efforts of Officer Robert Latosh, a member of the respondent department, whose efforts with respect to the complainant's request far exceeded those required by the Freedom of Information Act.

 

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 comply with the requirements of 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S. regarding prompt access to public records.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 10, 1987.

 

Catherine I. Hostetter

Acting Clerk of the Commission