In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION


Rick Martin,




against Docket #FIC 87-60


Seymour Fire Marshal,


Respondent June 10, 1987


The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 9, 1987, at which time the complainant and the respondent 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 is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.


2. On or about February 25, 1987 the complainant made an oral request of the respondent for a copy of his written report concerning a fire at 131 Bungay Road on January 21, 1987.


3. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on March 6, 1987 the complainant appealed the respondent's failure to provide the requested report.


4. At the hearing before the Commission, the respondent stated that at the time of the complainant's request, the report in question had not been written. The respondent further stated that he did, however, provide the complainant with notice once the report was completed and informed him that he would have to prepay a cost of $15 prior to receiving the document in question.


Docket #FIC 87-60 Page 2


5. It is found that the respondent did not send notice directly to the complainant when the report was completed. He instead gave a letter indicating such to his friend who pinned it on a bulletin board at the Seymour Ambulance Corps.


6. It is found that the complainant discovered the respondent's letter five days later and when he made an attempt to obtain the document in question he was unable to do so because the respondent was on vacation.


7. It is further found that the respondent's records are kept at his home and the only means of contacting him is by leaving a message on an answering machine at his home.


8. The respondent claims that he keeps the records at his home because of the inadequate space at the fire department.


9. It is found that 1-19(a), G.S., requires each public agency which has no regular office or place of business to keep and maintain all public records in the office of the clerk of the political subdivision in which such public agency is located.


10. It is therefore concluded that keeping any records of the fire department at the home of the respondent violates the requirements of 1-19(a), G.S.


11. It is also concluded that keeping records of the respondent at his home denied the complainant's right to inspect or to receive a copy of public records, in violation of 1-19(a), G.S.


12. The Commission notes that pursuant to 1-15, G.S., payment for copies of public records cannot exceed $0.25 per page and that any fee charged by the respondent would have to be in accordance with this statutory provision.


13. The Commission also notes that the respondent's testimony at the hearing demonstrated a clear lack of knowledge concerning the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.


14. As a public agency, the respondent has a responsibility and obligation to know the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.


Docket #FIC 87-60 Page 3


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


1. The respondent shall forthwith transfer all of the public records in his home to the custody of the town clerk at the Seymour town hall and shall henceforth keep and maintain all such records in the office of the Seymour town clerk.


2. The respondent shall forthwith provide the complainant with a copy of the document more fully described at paragraph 2 of the findings, above.


3. The respondent forthwith shall arrange with the Commission's staff to have a Commission staff attorney present a program on the Freedom of Information Act in the Town of Seymour. The respondent shall give notice of this program to other town agencies. The respondent and the town attorney shall attend this program.


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