FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
against Docket #FIC 90-28
Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority,
Respondent January 14, 1991
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 11, 1990, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. By order of the hearing officer, the document requested by the complainant and at issue in this matter was submitted to the Commission for in camera inspection on May 15, 1990.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:
1. The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.
2. By letter of complaint dated January 16, 1990 and filed with the Commission on January 22, 1990, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that his request for certain records had been denied.
3. It is found that the respondent conducted public hearings in Cromwell and Portland in April of 1989 about locating a waste-to-energy, or so-called "resource recovery," incinerator in the area.
4. It is found that citizens at those hearings raised concerns about both the proposed locations and the study commissioned by the respondent evaluating those locations.
5. It is found that the respondent promised to provide in a timely manner a set of written responses to the concerns raised by the citizens at the public hearings.
6. It is found that the complainant inquired after the status of the written responses in July of 1989
7. It is found that the responses had been written by staff and submitted to the president of the respondent, William Darcy, but had not yet been presented to the Board of the respondent for action.
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8. It is found that the complainant again inquired after the status of the written responses in December 1989, at which time he was informed that the responses were complete and on Mr. Darcy's desk for disposition.
9. It is found that the complainant spoke to Mr. Darcy on December 20, 1989, at which time Mr. Darcy acknowledged that the responses were on his desk, but stated that their disclosure would serve only the "prurient interest" of those people who were opposed to the facility and that he would release them only when the respondent decided whether or not to go forward with such a facility.
10. It is found that the complainant by letter dated January 4, 1990 requested a copy of the written responses.
11. It is found that the respondent denied the complainant's request by letter dated January 11, 1990.
12. It is concluded that the written responses are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S.
13. The respondent maintains that the responses are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(1) and 1-19(c), G.S.
14. It is found that the responses are the result of the respondent's investigations into the concerns raised by local citizens.
15. It is found that the responses are in the form of commentaries on and explanations of the specific issues raised at the public hearings.
16. It is concluded that the responses do not comprise part of the process by which governmental decisions and policies are formulated within the meaning of 1-19(c), G.S.
17. It is found that the responses have the apppearance of a completed document, but are labeled a draft.
18. It is also found that the responses have not received complete internal staff review by the respondent, have not been reviewed or approved by the respondent board, and are subject to revision before submission to or discusion among the members of the board, within the meaning of 1-19(c), G.S.
19. It is concluded that the responses are a preliminary draft of a memorandum prepared by the staff of the respondent within the meaning of 1-19(c), G.S.
20. The complainant argues that the respondent has deliberately maintained the responses in draft form for the purpose of withholding them from the public.
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21. In support of his argument, the complainant maintains that the respondent has spent far more time preparing the responses than it did investigating those concerns before they were raised at the public hearings.
22. The respondent maintains that the finalization of the responses, as well as the project to which they pertain, have become a low priority task that it is under no legal obligation or deadline to complete.
23. The respondent additionally maintains that the public deserves complete and accurate responses, and that release of the responses in draft form might raise new concerns or foster persistent misunderstandings.
24. It is found that the written responses contain no confidential information.
25. It is also found that the purpose of the written responses is to address public concerns that the respondent believes to be largely based on misinformation and misunderstanding.
26. It is further found that one purpose of the Freedom of Information Act is to inform the public of facts that would correct misinformation and misunderstanding about governmental activities and decision-making and facilitate informed debate on significant public issues.
27. It is concluded, however, that nothing in the Freedom of Information Act requires the respondent to complete a draft of a staff memorandum intended solely to answer questions raised by the public, which is subject to revision before submission to or discussion among the members of the respondent's board and which does not comprise part of the process by which governmental decisions and policies are formulated.
28. It is concluded therefore that the draft of the responses is permissibly exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(c), G.S., and that the respondent did not violate 1-19, G.S., by refusing to disclose it.
The following order by the Commisson is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint.
1. The complaint is hereby dismissed.
2. The Commission urges the respondent to reconsider its decision to withhold the draft responses. By taking the position that it is under no legal obligation to complete the promised responses, in a timely manner or otherwise, the
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respondent sacrifices its credibility with the public. Ultimately, the respondent is accountable to the citizens of the state, and broken promises of disclosure at early stages of decision-making are likely to increase public distrust at later stages.
Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of January 14, 1991.
Tina C. Frappier
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 90-28 Page 5
PURSUANT TO SECTION 4-180(c), G.S. THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION, OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.
THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:
62 Pasco Hill Road
Cromwell, CT 06416
CONNECTICUT RESOURCES RECOVERY AUTHORITY
c/o Glen A. Gross, Esq.
Senior Counsel, CRRA
179 Allyn Street
Hartford, CT 06106
Tina C. Frappier
Acting Clerk of the Commission