FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Joan Coe,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 91-100

 

Theodore T. Tansi, First Selectman, Town of Simsbury and Town of Simsbury,

 

Respondents October 9, 1991

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 28, 1991, 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 and conclusions of law are reached:

 

1. The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on April 2, 1991, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that she had been denied records during a budget workshop meeting, and alleging that the respondents had an arbitrary, discriminatory and capricious policy of charges for public records that inhibited access to records.

 

3. It is found that the complainant attended a March 26, 1991 budget workshop meeting of the respondents.

 

4. It is found that the complainant moved her chair from the public area of the meeting room to the table around which the meeting participants were working, and interposed herself between the respondent chairman and the budget director, in order to observe documents that they were working with.

 

5. It is found that the records that the complainant sought to inspect were working pages that itemized budget changes, together with supporting documentation.

 

6. It is found that the respondent chairman objected to the complainant reading over the members' shoulders because it interfered with their work.

 

7. It is found that the complainant then requested that she be immediately provided a copy of the documents she was attempting to inspect.

 

Docket #FIC 91-100 Page 2

 

8. It is found that the respondent chairman denied her reqest for immediate access.

 

9. It is found that the respondent chairman did not have extra copies of the requested record, and did not have convenient access to a copying machine.

 

10. It is found that the complainant was later provided with other records the members were working from, but never received the records she requested.

 

11. It is found that the requested records were available soon after the meeting, but that the complainant was only interested in immediate access to the records.

 

12. It is concluded that the respondent Chairman did not violate 1-15 or 1-19(a), G.S., by refusing to immediately provide a copy of the requested record.

 

13. The complainant also maintains that the town's policy concerning charges for records inhibits access to records.

 

14. It is found that the town's policy concerning charges for public records provides that the charge for most copies is 25 per page, except for oversized records or where the General Statutes or town ordinances provide otherwise. Members of the public receive agendas of meetings free of charge, and members of the media receive agendas and addenda free of charge.

 

15. It is also found that town provides members of the public copies of some records free of charge, such as the town report and the proposed budget.

 

16. It is also found that the complainant has sometimes received copies of records free of charge, or paid for records that another person received free of charge.

 

17. It is found that the complainant offered no evidence to prove that the town's policy regarding charges for copies diminishes or curtails in any way the rights granted under 1-19(a), G.S.

 

18. It is concluded that the respondent did not violate 1-15 or 1-19(a), G.S., by varying its charges for records as described above.

 

19. Additionally, the complainant maintains that copies of records should be free to any citizen attempting to act as a government watchdog, since such activity benefits the general welfare within the meaning of 1-15, G.S.

 

 

Docket #FIC 91-100 Page 3

 

20. Section 1-15, G.S., provides in relevant part:

 

The public agency shall waive any fee provided for in this section when ... (3) in its judgment, compliance with the applicant's request benefits the general welfare. [Emphasis added.]

 

21. It is found that it is the policy of the town to waive fees for certain records for members of the media, because the town believes that such a waiver benefits the general welfare by increasing the dissemination of information through the news media.

 

22. It is concluded that 1-15, G.S., places the judgment as to whether the general welfare is benefited with the town.

 

23. It is found that the complainant made no showing that the town's policy regarding fee waivers is an abuse of its discretionary judgment.

 

24. It is concluded that the town did not violate 1-15, G.S., by waiving fees for copies of certain records provided to members of the media.

 

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

 

1. The complaint is dismissed.

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of October 9, 1991.

 

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission

 

Docket #FIC 91-100 Page 4

 

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:

Joan Coe

26 Whitcomb Drive

Simsbury, CT 06070

 

Theodore T. Tansi, First Selectman, Town of Simsbury and Town of Simsbury

c/o Attorney Susan A. Quinn

Tyler, Cooper & Alcorn

CityPlace - 35th Floor

Hartford, CT 06103-3488

 

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission