FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision

 

Lucia Cinotti,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 87-155

 

Fire Marshal and Chief of the Fire Department of the City of Stratford,

 

Respondents September 9, 1987

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 9, 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. By letter dated May 18, 1987 and filed with the Commission on May 26, 1987, the complainant alleged the respondents failed to comply with paragraph 1 of the Commission's order in Docket #FIC 87-25.

 

3. The paragraph in question states: "The respondents forthwith shall permit the complainant to examine the fire safety inspection files, more fully described in paragraph 2 of the findings, above, during the regular business hours of the respondents' clerical staff."

 

4. By letter dated June 30, 1987 and filed with the Commission on July 7, 1987, the complainant amended her complaint, requesting the imposition of a civil penalty.

 

5. The respondents claim they requested the complainant to schedule an appointment to peruse the fire safety inspection files and the complainant failed to keep her appointments.

 

6. Specifically, the respondents allege the complainant made an appointment to view the fire safety inspection files on April 8, 1987, and was told to call the respondents if she could not keep the appointment. The respondents claim the complainant neither cancelled nor kept the appointment.

 

Docket #FIC 87-155 Page 2

 

7. It is found the complainant failed to keep her appointment on April 8, 1987 to examine the fire safety inspection files.

 

8. It also is found the complainant contacted the respondents, by telephone, on April 27, 1987, May 6, 1987 and May 14, 1987, to schedule an appointment to peruse the fire safety inspection files and on each occasion was told to call back at a later date.

 

9. It also is found the complainant went to the respondents' office on April 24, 1987 and May 6, 1987, to examine the fire safety inspection files and on each occasion was unable to view them.

 

10. It also is found that at the hearing, the respondents and the complainant agreed that the complainant would examine the fire safety inspection files on July 13, 1987, at 8:30 a.m. Subsequent to the hearing, the complainant failed to keep that appointment on the advice of her attorney that she have a witness present while examining the fire safety inspection files.

 

11. It further is found the complainant made another appointment to peruse the fire safety inspection files on July 15, 1987, at 2:00 p.m., and on that date, the complainant, along with a companion, went to the respondents' office and was unable to examine the fire safety inspection files. The complainant, however, was able to inspect the fire safety inspection file regarding her home.

 

12. It is concluded that requiring the complainant to schedule an appointment to examine the fire safety inspection files places an unauthorized precondition on access to public records, in violation of 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.

 

13. It is found although the respondents' regular office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the respondents are only in their office between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., and 3:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

 

14. It also is found while the respondents are away from their office, the fire safety inspection files are not accessible to the public because the office is locked.

 

15. It further is found that neither the respondents' full-time secretary nor part-time summer employees have access to the respondents' office where the fire safety inspection files are located.

 

Docket #FIC 87-155 Page 3

 

16. It is concluded the respondents have failed to make their fire safety inspection files accessible to the public during regular office hours, in violation of 1-19(a), G.S.

 

17. It therefore is concluded the respondents have failed to comply with paragraph 1 of the Commission's order in Docket #FIC 87-25.

 

18. The Commission declines to impose a civil penalty against the respondents at this time.

 

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

 

1. The respondents shall forthwith permit the complainant to examine the fire safety inspection files within two weeks from the date they receive notice of the final decision in this case.

 

2. The respondents, within two months from the date they receive notice of the final decision in this matter, shall forthwith make the necessary arrangements to provide for public access to the fire safety inspection files. If the respondents are unable to make such provisions, they shall forthwith make arrangements for the fire safety inspection files to be maintained in the office of the city clerk who shall make those records available to the public during regular office hours.

 

3. The respondents shall henceforth act in strict compliance with the requirements of 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.

 

4. The Commission cautions the respondents that failure to comply with an order of the Commission could subject them to criminal penalties, pursuant to 1-21k(b). G.S., should this matter be referred to the Office of the State's Attorney.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of September 9, 1987.

 

 

Hilde Mayranen

Acting Clerk of the Commission