FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Alex J. Sawka,
against Docket #FIC 92-252
Superintendent, East Hartford Public Schools,
Respondent April 14, 1993
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 9, 1993, 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 to the respondent dated July 1, 1992, the complainant requested copies of certain records pertaining to property proposed for the East Hartford High School soccer field.
3. More specifically, the complainant requested the following:
Any and all correspondence, contracts, written material, including notes and telephone conversations, with any persons or representatives of the town, state, federal agencies, contractors, and companies concerning:
a. Acquisition of the property;
b. Development of the property;
c. Alterations of the property;
d. Contractor for cutting and removing trees
Docket #FIC 92-252 Page 2
on the property;
e. Tree warden notification;
f. Digging and removal of stumps;
g. Leveling and grading of the property;
i. Permits for all work done on the premises;
j. Environmental and impact studies;
k. Amount of board foot lumber taken out of
l. Amount of fill brought onto the property;
m. Where the fill originated from;
n. Attorneys' names and legal fees that have
been incurred regarding the property to
o. Qualifications for the position of business
manager presently employed by the East
Hartford Board of Education.
4. By letter dated July 7, 1992, the Director of Business Services for the East Hartford Public Schools responded on behalf of the respondent, and indicated that since the development of the land for the soccer field for East Hartford High School was the subject of litigation, access to any information pertaining to it would have to be accomplished through the appropriate legal channels.
5. By letter of complaint dated and filed July 31, 1992, the complainant appealed the respondent's denial of access to the requested records to the Commission.
6. It is concluded that the requested records are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.
7. It is found that the complainant serves as the Vice President of the Patrolmen's and Firemen's Association of East Hartford (hereinafter "P & F Association").
8. It is found that at the time of the complainant's July
Docket #FIC 92-252 Page 3
1992 request, the P & F Association had instituted a lawsuit in Hartford Superior Court against the Town of East Hartford and the East Hartford Board of Education.
9. It is found that the lawsuit described in paragraph 8, above, concerned allegations by the P & F Association that the preparation of the land for, and the construction of, a soccer field on the parcel of land adjacent to property owned by the P & F Association, resulted in damage to the P & F Association's property and the pond situated thereon.
10. It is found that the records requested by the complainant in his July 1992 request directly pertained to the litigation described in paragraphs 8 and 9, above.
11. At the hearing on this matter, there was conflicting testimony concerning whether the lawsuit described in paragraphs 8 and 9 above, is still pending; curiously, the complainant claimed the lawsuit was ongoing, while the respondent claimed that it had been dismissed.
12. Section 1-19(b)(4), G.S., provides an exception to the disclosure of public records that constitute strategy or negotiations with respect to pending claims or pending litigation.
13. Section 1-19b(b)(1), G.S., provides that nothing in the Freedom of Information Act shall be deemed in any manner to affect the rights of litigants under the laws of discovery of this state.
14. It is found, however, that none of the records described in paragraph 2, above, implicate either strategy or negotiations within the meaning of 1-19(b)(4), G.S., and therefore this provision does not provide an exemption to the disclosure of the requested records.
15. In any event, it is further found particularly in view of the respondent's assertion described in paragraph 12, above, that there was no relevant pending litigation, at least from the date of the hearing on this matter; and consequently, neither the exemption set forth in 1-19(b)(4), G.S., nor the exemption set forth in 1-19b(b)(1), G.S., are applicable in this instance.
16. 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 prompt access to the requested records as described in paragraph 2, above.
Docket #FIC 92-252 Page 4
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 provide the complainant with copies of any records within his custody or possession that are responsive to the complainant's request, described in paragraph 2 of the findings, above.
2. Henceforth, the respondent shall strictly comply with the requirements of 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S..
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of April 14, 1993.
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 92-252 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:
ALEX J. SAWKA
216 Skyline Drive
South Windsor, CT 06074
SUPERINTENDENT, EAST HARTFORD PUBLIC SCHOOLS
c/o Atty. Kimberly Dean Coran
Shipman & Goodwin
One American Row
Hartford, CT 06103-2819
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission