FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

David J.D. Evans and Cummins Diesel Engines of Connecticut, Inc.,

 

Complainants

 

against Docket #FIC 88-134

 

State of Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles,

 

Respondent August 24, 1988

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 2, 1988, at which time the complainants 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 January 18, 1983, the commissioner of the respondent department established a policy concerning access to motor vehicle records and fees for such records. He stated that the respondent was not obligated to create files or lists and would furnish any existing file or list of registered owners at a fee of $0.75 per name, as authorized by 14-50a(a), G.S.

 

3. By letter dated April 4, 1988, the complainants requested a printout or copies of the following records:

 

a. The registration records for all present holders of Class 3 motor vehicle licenses, including the vehicle identification number, the name and address of the registrant, the county of and date (month/year) of the registration, the vehicle's fuel type and the name of the vehicle's manufacturer.

 

b. The registration records for all past holders of Class 3 motor vehicle licenses from 1984 to 1987.

 

Docket #FIC 88-134 Page 2

 

4. By letter dated April 12, 1988, the commissioner of the respondent stated that the registration records were not maintained in the medium requested and offered to provide the complainants with a copy of the current registration master file, consisting of 4,338,262 records (including historical data dating back to 1984), on a computer magnetic tape, at a cost of $0.75 per name of registered owner.

 

5. By letter of complaint dated April 11, 1988 and filed with the Commission on April 12, 1988, the complainants alleged that they were denied access to public records.

 

6. At the hearing, the parties agreed that the complainants sought access to the requested registration records on a computer magnetic tape.

 

7. The respondent claims that although the requested registration records are maintained on the registration master file, it is not obligated to create a program to retrieve the requested information. The complainants, in order to obtain access to the requested records, must purchase the complete registration master file.

 

8. It is found the requested records are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S.

 

9. It is found that the respondent's registration master file is not organized by class of registration and the respondent, therefore, does not maintain a separate file for holders of Class 3 motor vehicle licenses. The master file also does not include the county where the vehicle is registered and the vehicle's fuel type.

 

10. It also is found that by conducting a search for the requested records on the computer, the respondent determined that the subject records concerned some 77,000 active holders of Class 3 motor vehicle licenses.

 

11. It further is found that the respondent can extract the requested records from the registration master file either by creating a computer program or by utilizing a program presently on the computer system.

 

12. It therefore is concluded that the complainants need not purchase a copy of the complete registration master file in order to obtain access to the requested records.

 

13. At the hearing, the respondent stated that it would provide the complainant with copies of the requested registration records on a computer magnetic tape, at a cost of $0.75 per name, as authorized by 14-50a(a), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 88-134 Page 3

 

14. The complainants allege that the imposition of a fee of approximately $58,000 effectively denies them access to the requested information. The complainants are willing to pay for the cost of copying the requested information on a computer magnetic tape pursuant to the fee provisions enumerated in 1-15, G.S.

 

15. The respondent claims that 14-50a(a), G.S., governs the copying costs for the requested records.

 

16. It is found that 14-50a(a), G.S. applies only to the commissioner of the respondent department. Subsection 10 of that section specifically provides that the commissioner shall charge $0.75 for a copy of the "name of registered owner" and $1.00 on and after July 1, 1988.

 

17. It further is found that the cost of copying the requested records is governed by the specific language of 14-50a(a), G.S., and not by the general language of 1-15, G.S.

 

18. It therefore is concluded that the Commission does not have the authority to order the respondent to charge a fee for copies of the requested records pursuant to the fee provisions enumerated in 1-15, G.S.

 

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

 

1. In light of the circumstances described in paragraph 13 of the findings above, the respondent shall forthwith provide the complainant with copies of the requested records described in paragraphs 3a and 3b of the findings, above, (absent the information described in paragraph 9 of the findings, above), in the form of a computer magnetic tape, at a fee to be determined by the respondent.

 

2. The Commission notes that some of the requested records described in paragraph 3b of the findings, above, no longer may exist due to their destruction by the respondent pursuant to the retention schedule adopted by the State Public Records Administrator.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of August 24, 1988.

 

Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission