FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by                        Final Decision

 

Walter D. Miller,

 

                        Complainant

 

            against              Docket #FIC 91-231

 

Winchester Town Manager and Winchester Fire Marshal,                    

 

                        Respondent                  March 25, 1992

 

            The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 18, 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 postmarked July 30, 1991, the complainant alleged that the respondents failed to provide him with copies of state mandated inspection records relating to the duties of the fire marshal.

 

            3.         It is found that the complainant had been requesting records pertaining to the statutorily mandated inspections of the fire marshal over a period months.

 

            4.         It is found that on July 26, 1991 the complainant requested specifically:

 

            a.         a list of all structures that are mandated by state law for yearly inspections;

            b.         a list of business that require yearly inspection;

            c.         a list of all equipment that requires yearly inspection; and

            d.         a copy of all inspections made by the fire marshall in the last three years.

 

            5.         It is found that on August 2, 1991 the respondent town manager provided the complainant with certain documents but none

 

#FIC 91-231                           Page Two

 

were directly responsive to his requests.

 

            6.         It is found that approximately three drawers of records existed at the time of the complainant's request that contained data concerning fire marshal inspections.

 

            7.         It is found that the complainant failed to respond to the respondent town manager's invitation on August 20, 1992 to inspect the records on file concerning inspections, but that the complainant continued to insist on receiving copies of lists and inspections.

 

            8.         It is found that on August 20, 1991 the attorney for the respondent town manager wrote to the complainant to inform him that the lists did not exist, but that the lack of such lists would soon be remedied by some computer software that the town was acquiring.

 

            9.         It is found that the respondents did not have the current lists requested by the complainant in the form in which he was seeking them, although a list of structures requiring inspection existed from 1988, and was discovered at some point by the respondent town manager.

 

            10.       It is found also that both sides to this controversy made it far more complex than necessary:  on the one hand the respondents were less than forthcoming in disclosing that the lists did not exist; on the other hand, the complainant continued to insist that the Freedom of Information Act had been violated, when in fact he was aware that no such lists existed.

 

            11.       It is concluded that the respondent did not violate the Freedom of Information Act by failing to produce lists because the act contains no affirmative requirement that a public agency produce lists when none exist.

 

            12.       It is found that the respondent town manager's claim that he lacked sufficient staff to cull the inspection information from the files does not constitute a valid reason for failing to comply with the complainant's request for inspection.

 

            13.       It is concluded that the respondent violated the law by not providing the complainant with the requested copies of inspections as required by 1-15, G.S.

 

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

 

#FIC 91-231                           Page Three

 

complaint.

 

            1.         The respondents  shall comply henceforth with the requirements of 1-15 and 1-19, G.S.

 

            2.         The respondents shall provide the requested copies of inspections to the complainant.  Pursuant to 1-15, G.S., the respondent may charge the complainant as much as $.50 per page for the requested copies, and may require payment in advance of the copying because the costs for the requested records will be more than $10.00.

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 25, 1992.

 

                                                                 

                                    Debra L. Rembowski

                                    Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

#FIC 91-231                           Page Four

 

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:

Walter D. Miller

355 St. Catherine Street

Winsted, CT 06098

 

Winchester Town Manager

Winchester Fire Marshal

c/o Attorney Mark J. Svonkin

18 North Main Street

P.O. Box 271048

West Hartford, CT 06107

 

                                                                  

                                    Debra L. Rembowski

                                    Acting Clerk of the Commission