FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
George M. Souto,
against Docket #FIC 88-308
Midstate Regional Resource Recovery Authority,
Respondent January 25, 1989
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 16, 1988, 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. At a meeting held on May 16, 1988 the respondent discussed, in public session, a map of Connecticut's mid-state region which showed 34 areas, each consisting of up to thousands of acres, identified as possibly suitable for the location of a resource recovery facility.
3. At a meeting held on July 6, 1988 the site selection subcommittee of the respondent convened in executive session "to discuss potential sites to be acquired for siting of a resource recovery facility."
4. While convened in executive session on July 6, 1988 the respondent's consulting engineer used the map referred to in paragraph 2, above, to discuss with the members of the subcommittee his choice of five potential sites, of ten to twelve acres each, from among the 34 areas designated on the map. The location of the five potential sites had not at that time been made known to the public.
5. On July 21, 1988 the complainant made a request of the respondent for access to inspect the map in question and was told that the map was unavailable because it was in the hands of the consulting engineer, Cosulich Associates, in Long Island, NY.
Docket #FIC 88-308 Page Two
6. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on July 29, 1988 the complainant alleged that the respondent's July 6, 1988 meeting was illegal because the executive session had been held to discuss several potential sites, rather than to discuss the selection of "a site," within the meaning of §1-18a(e)(4), G.S. The complainant also appealed the respondent's failure to provide access to inspect the map of the mid-state region.
7. It is found that the July 6, 1988 meeting of the respondent's subcommittee was held to discuss the selection of a site or the lease, sale or purchase of real estate by a political subdivision of the state within the meaning of §1-18a(e)(4), G.S. and was a permissible purpose for an executive session within the meaning of such statute.
8. It is noted that since the filing of the complaint in this matter the respondent has abandoned its attempts to secure a location and all information concerning proposed sites has been released to the public.
9. It is found that the map discussed at the July 6, 1988 meeting was prepared by Cosulich Associates and measures approximately five feet by three feet. Relevant areas on the map are designated by the use of several colors.
10. It is found that the map in question was, on the date of the complainant's request, recorded data or information relating to the conduct of the public's business owned, used, received or retained by a public agency and was, therefore, a public record within the meaning of §1-18a(d), G.S.
11. It is found that due to its size and its use of colors, the map in question did not lend itself easily to manual or photo reproduction and the respondent did not, therefore, have a copy for its files while the map was being used by Cosulich Associates.
12. It is found, however, that the difficulty of reproduction did not excuse the respondent from its responsibility, under the Freedom of Information Act, to make its records accessible to the public.
13. It is concluded that the respondent's failure to retrieve for the complainant's inspection the original or a photocopy of the map, upon receiving the complainant's request, denied the complainant access to inspect a public record, in violation of §1-19(a), G.S.
Docket #FIC 88-308 Page Three
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint.
1. The complaint is hereby dismissed to the extent that it alleges the respondent improperly convened in executive session on July 6, 1988.
2. The respondent henceforth shall act in strict compliance with the requirements of §1-19(a), G.S. regarding the public's right to prompt access to inspect public records.
Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of January 25, 1989.
Karen J. Haggett
Clerk of the Commission