FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Edward C. Floyd,
against Docket #FIC 93-66
Bristol Claims Department,
Respondent October 13, 1993
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 1, 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 February 16, 1993, the complainant requested from the respondent certain records individually identified by the complainant as items 1. through 8.
3. By cover letter dated February 24, 1993 counsel for the respondent acknowledged receipt of the complainant's request, and provided a response concerning each of the requested items. Included with his cover letter, counsel for the respondent provided copies of some of the requested records.
4. By letter dated and filed on March 16, 1993 the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that he was not satisfied with the respondent's replies to those items identified in his February 16, 1993 letter as 1., 3., 4. and 8.
5. Consequently, only those items identified in the complainant's letter as items 1., 3., 4. and 8., as described in paragraph 4, above, are the subject of this complaint. The items at issue consist of the complainant's request for the following:
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"1. The [Department of] Public Works report relating to the road hazard recorded on Bristol Police Department's incident report #93117065 and accident report #930117065";
"3. The minutes of the meeting of the Claims Committee that took place on 1-29-93";
"4. The most recent claim settled concerning a road hazard such as a pot hole in which the City of Bristol made payment for damages and all relating documents"; and
"8. The names of all other individuals who were victimized by the same large pot hole described in [Bristol Police Department's] incident report #930117065, and the status of their claims."
6. It is found that the requested records are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S.
7. With respect to the the complainant's request identified as item 1., in paragraph 5., above, although the complainant stated that he was informed by a third party that such a report does in fact exist, the respondent's counsel indicated both in his February 24, 1993 letter and at the hearing on this matter that the Department of Public Works did not produce a report relating to the road hazard referred to by the complainant.
8. With respect to the complainant's request identified as item 3., in paragraph 5., above, counsel for the respondent provided the complainant with a copy of the claims committee meeting minutes for January 29, 1993.
9. It is found however, that counsel did not provide the complainant with an attachment to the January 29, 1993 minutes, identified as a "preliminary claims report", which report is incorporated by reference in the meeting minutes.
10. It is found that the preliminary claims report identified in paragraph 9., above, is otherwise readily available for public inspection at the respondent's regular place of business.
11. It is concluded that the respondent violated the disclosure provisions of 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), by failing to provide the complainant with a copy of the attachment to the minutes of the claims committee report, as described in paragraph 9., above.
12. With respect to the complainant's request identified as item 4., in paragraph 5., above, the respondent maintains that
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there have not been any such claims settled and therefore there are no records that are responsive to the complainant's request.
13. It is concluded that the respondent did not violate the disclosure provisions of the FOI Act with respect to the complainant's request identified as item 4., in paragraph 5., above.
14. With respect to the complainant's request for other claimants and the status of their claims identified as item 8., in paragraph 5., above, the respondent maintains that several claims were made against the City of Bristol but because such claims are pending, the records containing such information cannot be provided to the complainant.
15. Section 1-19(b)(4), G.S., exempts from disclosure records "pertaining to strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims or pending litigation to which the public agency is a party...."
16. Section 1-18a(g), G.S., defines the term "pending claims" for purposes of the Freedom of Information Act as:
"a written notice to an agency which sets forth a demand for legal relief or which asserts a legal right stating the intention to institute an action in an appropriate forum if such relief or right is not granted."
17. It is found that the respondent's reference to claims that are "pending", is a reference to claims for damages reimbursement filed with the respondent, all of which, according to the respondent's counsel, have been denied by the respondent. Furthermore, there have not been any court actions filed from such denials as of the date of the hearing on this matter.
18. It is found that the respondent failed to prove that it is a party to any "pending claims" within the meaning of 1-18a(g) or 1-19(b)(4), G.S., and it is therefore concluded that this exemption does not apply to the claims records in this case.
19. It is further concluded that the respondent violated the provisions of 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to provide the complainant with any records containing the names of other claimants, as referred to in paragraph 12, above.
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 a copy of the preliminary claims report, described in paragraph 9., of the findings above, and with any records in its
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possession containing the names of other claimants, as described in paragraph 19., of the findings above.
2. The respondent shall forthwith diligently search its records to ascertain whether there exists any report from the Department of Public Works responsive to the complainant's request and provide the complainant with a copy of any such report. If after conducting a search, the respondent finds no report responsive to the complainant's request, it shall submit an affidavit to the complainant, attesting to the fact that it has been unable to locate any such record.
3. 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 October 13, 1993.
Acting Clerk of the Commission
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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 CARE ARE:
Edward C. Floyd
128 Union Street
Bristol, CT 06010
BRISTOL CLAIMS DEPARTMENT
c/o Robert K. Wynne, Esq.
Office of the Corp. Counsel
111 North Main Street
Bristol, CT 06010
Acting Clerk of the Commission