In the Matter of a Complaint by                        Final Decision


Jerry A. Walden,




            against              Docket #FIC 92-125


Chester Conservation Commission,


                        Respondent                  March 10, 1993


            The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 2, 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 March 20, 1992, the complainant requested from the respondent's chairperson:  "the right to view and study (then photocopy) any all records associated with work proposed and work done, on Cedar Lake, Town of Chester, State of Connecticut." 


            3.  In his March 20, 1992 letter, the complainant specifically sought access to the following:


            "any signed contracts, contract proposals, recommendations made, correspondence, memos between commission members, and between the Conservation Commission and other boards; any correspondence related to Cedar Lake in any way; checks cashed for work completed on Cedar Lake; all studies conducted on Cedar Lake; a list of all persons having served on the Conservation Commission since 1984; any other written record or voice recording associated with Cedar Lake; telephone records of the town of Chester, as well as members of the Conservation Commission...related to the problem of weed growth in Cedar Lake...."


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            4.  By letter dated March 30, 1992, the respondent's chairperson informed the complainant that:


            a.  all of the respondent's actions and discussions are recorded in its minutes, which minutes are on file with the town clerk;


            b.  invoices, agreements, contracts and cancelled checks are located in the Selectmen's office or on file with the Board of Finance; and


            c.  records petaining to studies of Cedar Lake could be  located in the respondent's files.


            5.  The respondent's chairperson also informed the complainant that the respondent commission members did not communicate by memorandum and that the respondent did not keep phone logs, therefore no records existed responsive to that portion of the complainant's request.


            6.  By letter dated April 4, 1992 and filed April 10, 1992, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent failed to provide access to the requested records.


            7.  It is found with respect to all of the information requested other than contracts, contract proposals and studies with respect to Cedar Lake, that the respondent's chairperson appropriately directed the complainant to the offices where the complainant could obtain the information he requested.


            8.  It is found that sometime after the filing of this complaint, the complainant received certain records that were responsive to his request for contracts and contract proposals concerning Cedar Lake but that he has not received all of the records he is seeking.


            9.  It is found that there was an in-depth baseline study of Cedar Lake in 1986 and a mechanical reharvesting project was carried out in 1988.


            10.  The respondent maintains that there are currently no contracts pertaining to the study done in 1986 and the reharvesting project done in 1988 in its files, and that even if there were, they would not be located in the files of the respondent.


            11.  It is found that since 1988, the respondent undertook two additional projects with regard to Cedar Lake:  a follow-up study in 1990 and installation of benthic barriers in 1992.


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            12.  It is found that the respondent engaged the company that did the 1986 study to do the follow-up study in 1990 and that the parties signed a letter of agreement rather than a formal contract for such work.


            13.  It is found that early in 1992, the respondent sought proposals from three companies for the installation of benthic barriers at Cedar Lake and that two of the three companies submitted proposals.  The respondent signed a letter of agreement with Aquatic Control Technology, Inc., to carry out the project.


            14.  The respondent maintains that the letters of agreement described in paragraphs 12 and 13, above, are in the custody of the town of Chester's bookeeper rather than in the custody of the respondent.


            15.  It is found that at the time of the hearing on this matter, the complainant was still seeking access to the original proposal letter for the installation of benthic barriers from Aquatic Control Technology, Inc.


            16.  At the hearing on this matter, the respondent agreed to provide the complainant with the record described in paragraph 15, above.


            17.  It is finally found, that although the respondent does not maintain all of the records sought by the complainant, it failed to promptly provide the complainant with all of the records that were responsive to the complainant's request and that were in its custody.


            18.  It is therefore concluded that the respondent violated the provisions of 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to provide the complainant with all of the records in its custody that were responsive to the complainant's request.


            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 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S.


            2.  If the respondent has not already done so, it shall provide the complainant with a copy of the record described in paragraph 15 of the findings, above, and any additional records in its possession pertaining to studies concerning Cedar Lake.


            3.  The Commission notes that the respondent apparently does not retain in its files any contracts or letters of


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agreement pertaining to Cedar Lake.  The Commission recommends that in the future, the respondent maintain in its files copies of such records, since such records pertain to the business of the respondent.  In this regard, the respondent may want to contact the State Public Records Administrator to inquire into the requirements of law with respect to the retention of public records.


Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 10, 1993.



                                    Debra L. Rembowski

                                    Acting Clerk of the Commission


Docket #FIC 92-125                           Page 5





Jerry A. Walden

231 West Main Street

Chester, CT 06412


Chester Conservation Commission

c/o Clair C. Dudley

65 Main Street

Chester, CT 06412



                                    Debra L. Rembowski

                                    Acting Clerk of the Commission