FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
against Docket #FIC 92-160
East Hartford Housing Authority,
Respondent December 23, 1992
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 4 and 12, 1992, at which times 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 May 8, 1992, the complainant requested copies of the following documents from the respondent:
a. contracts, letters of agreement, and correspondence
from January 1, 1989 through May 8, 1992 between the
respondent and its housing director, John Roughan,
(hereinafter "director") relating to his employment
as director, including documents detailing terms
of his employment, such as salary, benefits, etc.;
b. records detailing the use of the director's car
during the timeframe set forth in 2a., above,
including records detailing costs incurred by the
respondent to transport the director to meetings
while his driver's license was under suspension.
3. By letter to the complainant dated May 13, 1992, the respondent's counsel denied access to the requested records.
Docket #FIC 92-160 Page 2
4. By letter dated May 19, 1992 and filed May 20, 1992, the complainant appealed the respondent's denial of records to the Commission.
5. It is concluded that the requested records are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.
6. It is found that on or about October 29, 1992, the complainant received records that were responsive to her May request. The complainant was provided with copies of: the director's employment contract dated June 29, 1988 along with an amendment to the contract dated January 2, 1992; and a letter dated September 30, 1992, to the Investigations and Audit Committee (hereinafter "committee") of the East Hartford Town Council (hereinafter "council") from the respondent's treasurer, indicating that no payments for monthly expenses were made to the director for the time during which his driver's license was under suspension.
7. It is also found that the complainant serves as Mayor of the Town of East Hartford (hereinafter "town").
8. It is also found that the documents described in paragraph 6, above, were provided to the complainant as part of a regular distribution of materials to members of the council and the mayor (hereinafter "October distribution").
9. The respondent maintains that although its records are open to the general public pursuant to the Freedom of Information (hereinafter "FOI") Act, it did not comply with the complainant's request because it questioned her legal authority as mayor to oversee the respondent's administration.
10. It is found that the issue of whether the complainant acted beyond the scope of her authority by inquiring into the respondent's actions relative to its director's employment, was investigated, at the request of the respondent's counsel, by the committee referred to in paragraph 6, above.
11. The respondent maintains that it actually provided the complainant's attorney with a copy of the director's employment contract and amendment thereto prior to the October distribution, during an August 13, 1992 hearing concerning the committee's investigation described in paragraph 10, above.
12. The complainant maintains that she did not receive any of the requested records until the October distribution, and
Docket #FIC 92-160 Page 3
further that she believes that there are additional records that are responsive to her request, but have not been provided to her.
13. It is found that the respondent's concerns about the complainant's authority over it, and the committee's investigation concerning that issue, do not negate its responsibility to make its records available to all members of the public, including the complainant, in accordance with the provisions of the FOI Act.
14. The respondent maintains that there are no additional records that have been withheld from the complainant but admits that a search may not have been conducted to ascertain whether additional records in fact exist.
15. Section 1-15(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:
"Any person applying in writing shall receive
promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy
of any public record."
16. It is found that the time and manner in which the respondent provided the complainant with copies of the requested employment contract and the amendment thereto, whether in August when they were supplied to her attorney, or in October through the regular distribution to council members, did not satisfy the requirements of 1-15(a), G.S.
17. It is therefore concluded that the respondent violated the provisions of 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to provide prompt access to copies of the requested records.
18. It is found that the respondent's denial of access to the requested records was without reasonable grounds.
19. The Commission, however, in its discretion, under the facts and circumstances of this case, 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. The respondent shall forthwith diligently search its records and provide copies of any additional records related to the complainant's May request, described in paragraph 2, of the findings, above.
Docket #FIC 92-160 Page 4
2. If after conducting the search more fully described in paragraph 1 of the order above, the respondent finds no additional records responsive to the complainant's May request, described in paragraph 2 of the findings, above, it shall submit an affidavit to the complainant, attesting to the fact that it has been unable to locate any additional records in its possession related to said request, other than those already provided to the complainant.
3. Henceforth the respondent shall strictly comply with the requirements of 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S.
4. Although the Commission declined to do so in this case, the Commission cautions the respondent that any future violations of the nature set forth in the findings, above, may well result in the imposition of a civil penalty, in accordance with the provisions of 1-21i(b), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of December 23, 1992.
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 92-160 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:
Town of East Hartford
740 Main Street
East Hartford, CT 06108
East Hartford Housing Authority
c/o Attorney Ralph J. Alexander
Brady, Willard & Alexander
330 Roberts Street
East Hartford, CT 06108
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission