FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by Final decision

 

Frederick E. Kamp, Jr.,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 91-293

 

New Haven Assessor,

 

Respondent May 13, 1992

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 18, 1992, 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 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 dated August 26, 1991 and filed September 18, 1991, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that on August 20, 1991, the complainant requested from the respondent access to a field card and that the respondent denied prompt access to the requested record.

 

3. At the hearing on this matter, the complainant requested that the Commission impose a civil penalty upon the respondent.

 

4. It is found that on August 20, 1991, sometime after 1:00 p.m., the complainant went to the respondent's office and requested access to a certain field card and that a member of the respondent's staff indicated that due to "office policy", access to field cards was not permitted after 1:00 p.m.

 

5. It is found that field cards contain the following types of information: the owner of the subject property, previous owners of the subject property, tax information, reference to the assessor's maps and a detailed summary of improvements to the property.

 

Docket #FIC 91-293 Page 2

 

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

 

7. Section 1-19(a), G.S., states in relevant part:

 

"Except as otherwise provided by any federal law or

state statute, 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..."

 

8. It is found that the respondent's regular office hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

 

9. It is found that it is the respondent's policy to allow access to field cards only between the hours of 9:00 a.m and 1:00 p.m.

 

10. It is found that the complainant eventually obtained access to the requested field card on or about August 27, 1991, by requesting access during the permitted hours of access described in paragraph 9, above.

 

11. The respondent maintains that his office employs the policy described in paragraph 9, above, due to staff limitations and because of numerous state-mandated obligations that occupy the time of the office staff.

 

12. The respondent further maintains that his office could not provide access to field cards during all of its regular business hours because it would be prevented from accomplishing its state-mandated obligations and might be subject to severe penalties as a result thereof.

 

13. It is found, however, that the respondent currently has a staff of seventeen employees and that two staff persons are dedicated to responding to field card requests during the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.

 

14. It is also found that pulling a field card from a file drawer can be accomplished in a couple of minutes.

 

15. It is also found that any member of the respondent's staff may pull a field card at the request of a member of the public and that no expurgation of confidential information is necessary before providing access.

 

Docket #FIC 91-293 Page 3

 

16. The respondent finally maintains that the complainant was not denied access to the requested information because the field card information is obtainable through alternate sources, such as at the building department and the vault area of the respondent's office.

 

17. It is found however, that not all of the field card information can be obtained from the sources described in paragraph 16, above.

 

18. It is also found that the availability of the information through alternate sources does not negate the respondent's responsibility to provide prompt access to public records.

 

19. It is concluded that the respondent violated the provisions of 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to provide prompt access to the requested public record.

 

20. The Commission in its discretion declines to impose a civil penalty upon the respondent.

 

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 strictly comply with the requirements of 1-19(a), G.S.

 

2. The Commission reminds the respondent that in addition to the other state-mandated obligations of his office, as a public agency under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, he has an obligation to provide for public access to the records maintained by his office.

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 13, 1992.

 

 

Karen J.Haggett

Clerk of the Commission

 

Docket #FIC 91-293 Page 3

 

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:

MR. FREDERICK E. KAMP, JR.

1285 Whirlwind Hill Road

Wallingford, CT 06492

 

Aileen M. Bell, Esq.

City of New Haven

Office of the Corporation Counsel

770 Chatel Street

New Haven, CT 06510

 

 

Karen J.Haggett

Clerk of the Commission