FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision

 

Stanley Nevers and Citizens Property Owners Association, Inc.,

 

Complainants

 

against Docket #FIC 91-55

 

New Britain Corporation Counsel,

 

Respondent November 13, 1991

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 20, 1991, 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 and conclusions of law are reached:

 

1. The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. On March 5, 1991, the complainants requested access to files concerning property located at 20 Ledyard Road (hereinafter "Ledyard file").

 

3. The complainants' request for access to the Ledyard file was addressed to two clerical employees in the respondent's office who denied the request on behalf of the respondent.

 

4. The complainants filed their appeal with this Commission on March 7, 1991.

 

5. At the hearing on this matter the complainants requested the imposition of civil penalties.

 

6. It is found that the requested information is maintained as a public record within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S.

 

7. The respondent argues that the clerical employees were acting in accordance with office policy.

 

Docket #FIC 91-55 Page 2

 

8. Specifically, the respondent claims that: 1) a significant number of the files in the office relate to pending litigation matters; and 2) the policy and practice of the office is to require that a staff attorney review a file and remove materials relating to legal strategy and negotiation before permitting any member of the public access to that file.

 

9. The complainants concede that at the time of their request there was litigation pending regarding the Ledyard Road property.

 

10. It is found that at the time of the complainants' request two of the respondent's staff attorneys were present in the office.

 

11. It is found that neither of the clerical employees sought assistance from either of the staff attorneys present in the office.

 

12. It is found that subsequent to the complainants' request the contents of the Ledyard file were reviewed by an attorney in the respondent's office and a determination made that nothing in the Ledyard file was exempt from disclosure.

 

13. It is found that on or about March 19, 1991, the respondent mailed a letter to the complainants explaining its office policy and procedure regarding requests for access to its files (hereinafter "March letter"). Enclosed with the March letter were copies of the entire contents of the Ledyard file.

 

14. It is found that the respondent's office policy does not supersede the requirements of Connecticut's Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA").

 

15. Section 1-19(a), G.S., provides, in pertinent part that:

 

"Except as otherwise provided...all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency,...shall be public records and every person shall have the right to inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours or to receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15...." [Emphasis added].

 

Docket #FIC 91-55 Page 3

 

16. It is found that while the respondent's March letter to the complainants is evidence of its awareness of its responsibilities under the FOIA, the respondent should have contacted the complainants much sooner than fourteen days after the initial request.

 

17. It is concluded that the respondent failed to promptly comply with the complainants' request for access to the Ledyard file as set forth in 1-19(a), G.S.

 

18. The Commission declines to impose a civil penalty as requested by the complainants.

 

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

 

1. Henceforth the respondent shall promptly comply with document requests in accordance with 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.

 

2. A copy of this decision shall be posted on the Town Clerk's bulletin board for a period of thirty days.

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of November 13, 1991.

 

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission

 

Docket #FIC 91-55 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:

Stanley Nevers and Citizens Property Owners Association

c/o Richard H. Kosinski, Esq.

106 Farmington Avenue

New Britain, CT 06053

 

New Britain Corporation Counsel

c/o Attorney Anita D. Cobb

Office of the Corporation Counsel

185 Main Street

New Britain, CT 06051

 

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission