FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Barbara A. Meyers,
against Docket #FIC 92-269
Executive Director, Westport Housing Authority,
Respondent August 11, 1993
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 12, 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 dated August 18, 1992 and filed August 21, 1992, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent failed to:
a. properly comply with her requests for records on July 14 and 20, 1992; and
b. file a list of public meeting dates for the Westport Housing Authority (hereinafter "WHA") with the town clerk until mid-July 1992.
3. With respect to the complainant's allegation described in paragraph 2a., above, the complainant maintains that at a meeting of the WHA on July 14, 1992, she made a request for copies of certain records and that a member of the WHA indicated that he understood her request.
4. The respondent maintains that at the July 14, 1992 meeting, she indicated to the complainant that she should call the respondent and schedule an appointment.
5. On July 16, 1992, the complainant contacted the respondent by telephone and arranged an appointment to meet with her on July 20, 1992.
Docket #FIC 92-269 Page 2
6. On July 20, 1992, the complainant visited the respondent's office but did not obtain any records at that time because according to the respondent, by failing to put her request for records in writing, the complainant had not complied with the Freedom of Information (hereinafter "FOI") Act.
7. It is found that the complainant returned to the respondent's office later in the afternoon on July 20, 1992 with a written request for records, which request did not refer or list any specific documents that she was seeking.
8. It is found that when the complainant arrived at the respondent's office for the second time on July 20, 1992, the respondent gave the complainant a letter in which the respondent requested that the complainant put her request for records in writing; and instructing the complainant to be very specific regarding what records she was interested in obtaining.
9. It is found that on July 21, 1992, the complainant provided the respondent with a written list of records she was seeking. The complainant's written list consisted of the following:
"a. Waiting List of potential tenants with WHA (Sasco
Creek Village and Hales Court)
b. Minutes of WHA's July 14, 1992 meeting;
c. Minutes of WHA's May 12, 1992 meeting;
d. Minutes of WHA's meetings between 1990 and 1991;
e. Oil service history for Unit #25;
f. List of Number of Occupants at each unit (Sasco
Creek Village) and size of unit;
g. Activity Reports (8-63, G.S.) to be filed annually
with the town clerk; and
h. Copies of WHA's update letters to potential tenants
on waiting lists."
10. It is found that by letter dated July 22, 1992 the respondent informed the complainant of the itemized cost for copies of the requested records and included a charge of $15.00 for estimated preparation time.
11. It is found that on July 24, 1992, the complainant telephoned the respondent's office but was informed by a part-time employee of WHA that the respondent was not in the office that day and that the office was closed.
Docket #FIC 92-269 Page 3
12. It is found that on July 27, 1992, the complainant again visited the respondent's office and went over her list of requested records, as described in paragraph 9, above, with the respondent.
13. It is found that on July 27, 1992, the respondent provided the complainant with copies of the records identified in paragraphs 9a., 9b., 9c. and 9e, above.
14. With respect to the complainant's request described in paragraph 9d. above, the complainant indicated that she would prefer to examine such records rather than pay for copies of such records.
15. With respect to the complainant's request in paragraph 9f., above, the respondent informed the complainant that no documents exist that are responsive to that request.
16. With respect to the complainant's request in paragraph 9g., above, the respondent informed the complainant that no records exist that are entitled "activity reports" and that the WHA only maintains annual reports. When shown the annual reports, the complainant indicated she did not want copies of them.
17. With respect to the complainant's request in paragraph 9h., above, the respondent informed the complainant that the WHA had a form update letter which the complainant indicated she did not want. The respondent inadvertently showed the complainant a form letter other the update letter on July 27, 1992, but offered to provide the update form letter during the hearing on this matter.
18. It is found that the form letter described in paragraph 17, above, is a form that is mailed to individals on WHA's waiting lists, and which asks each individual to supply certain updated information to the WHA such as: income, special circumstances and how much the individual currently pays in rent.
19. At the hearing on this matter, the complainant indicated that she was seeking copies of the update form letters that were completed and returned by the individuals on the waiting list, not the form letter itself.
20. It is found that the copies of the returned and completed update letters were not within the scope of the complainant's request in this case.
21. It is found that the respondent only charged the complainant for the copies she actually obtained and did not ultimately charge the complainant the $15.00 amount for preparation time as indicated in her July 22, 1992 letter.
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22. Section 1-19(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:
"...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 or to receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15...."
23. 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."
24. It is found under the facts and totality of circumstances in this case that although the complainant may not initially have been entirely precise as to the specific records she was seeking, it is found that the respondent's manner of dealing with the complainant, as particulary described in paragraphs 5 through 12, above, did not fulfill her obligations pursuant to the provisions of 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S.
25. With regard to the complainant's allegation that the respondent failed to post notice of WHA's regular meetings until mid-July 1992, 1-21(a), G.S., requires the chairman or secretary of any public agency to file a schedule of regular meetings of such public agency for the ensuing year, with the town clerk by no later than January thirty-first of each year.
26. It is found that the respondent filed copies of WHA's regular meetings schedule with the Westport town clerk in January 1992 and that subsequently the clerk either lost or misplaced the schedule.
27. It is further found that following a request from the complainant in July 1992, the town clerk sought another copy of the WHA meetings schedule from the respondent, which schedule was placed on file with the town clerk sometime during July 1992.
28. It is concluded that the respondent fulfilled the requirements for the filing of a yearly schedule of regular meetings, as set forth in 1-21(a), G.S, and did not violate the FOI Act in that regard.
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.
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2. Although the respondent did not ultimately charge the complainant for preparation time, the Commission further wishes to remind the respondent that except in those instances specifically set forth in 1-15(b), G.S., a public agency generally may not charge a fee for preparation time for providing copies of public records.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of August 11, 1993.
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 92-269 Page 6
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:
Barbara A. Meyers
1655 Post Road East #25
Westport, CT 06880
Executive Director, Westport Housing Authority
c/o Atty. Carol Falberg
5 Mott Avenue
Norwalk, CT 06850
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission