FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
against Docket #FIC 93-116
Superintendent, Guilford Public Schools,
Respondent October 27, 1993
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 2, 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. On February 25, 1993, the complainant filled out a "request form," supplied by the respondent, in order to inspect the 1991-1992 (a) petty cash receipts submitted by eight specified school principals and department heads and (b) invoices submitted by sixteen specified private businesses and companies.
3. On March 3, 1993, the complainant went to the respondent's office for the purpose of inspecting the subject records, at which time the respondent advised her that she could only inspect the subject records for a period of thirty minutes per day because one of his employees had to be present while she inspected the records.
4. By letter dated April 6, 1993, the complainant informed the respondent that his thirty-minute policy was not satisfactory because it was taking her months to inspect the subject records and, accordingly, requested additional time to inspect the records during regular business hours.
5. By letter dated April 20, 1993, the respondent denied the complainant's request for more time, but suggested that if
Docket #FIC 93-116 Page 2
the complainant wanted greater access, she could pay the cost of having a substitute bookkeeper and he would have someone available to oversee her inspection of the subject records.
6. By letter dated April 26, 1993 and filed April 27, 1993, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent's imposition of a thirty-minute per day inspection limitation violated the Freedom of Information (hereinafter "FOI") Act.
7. Section 1-19(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:
"...all records maintained or kept on file by a public agency...shall be public records and every person shall have the right to inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours...."
8. It is concluded that the subject records are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.
9. The respondent maintains that the limitations he imposed on the complainant's inspection of public records is necessary in view of the large number of records involved, some of which are original invoices or receipts.
10. The Commission acknowledges the respondent's duty to preserve and protect the integrity and security of the public records in his custody and possession. Therefore the imposition of reasonable conditions to meet that duty must be considered in applying the provisions, quoted above, of 1-19(a), G.S.
11. The Commission concludes, however, that in meeting its duty to preserve and protect the integrity and security of the public records in its custody and possession, a public agency must also accommodate the public's right to inspect public records promptly, as guaranteed in 1-19(a), G.S. Therefore, the reasonable conditions a public agency may impose for the sake of such records' integrity and security must be as unintrusive as possible on the public's right to prompt access.
12. In this case, it is found that the respondent failed to prove that the thirty-minute per day limitation on the complainant's access to inspect the subject public records, or her paying the costs of a substitute bookkeeper, was either reasonable or as unintrusive as possible on the complainant's right to prompt access to inspect such records.
13. It is therefore concluded that the respondent violated 1-19(a), G.S., by limiting the complainant's access to inspect public records as described in paragraphs 3 and 5, above.
Docket #FIC 93-116 Page 3
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 1-19(a), G.S.
2. The Commission notes, as referred to in paragraph 2 of the findings above, that the respondent apparently requires that requests to inspect or obtain copies of public records be submitted on a request form compiled by his office. The Commission wishes to remind the respondent that with respect to inspection of public records, such a requirement is not permitted under the terms of 1-19(a), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of October 27, 1993.
Elizabeth A. Leifert
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 CASE ARE:
Ms. Ann Manganella
345 New England Road
Guilford, CT 06437
Superintendent, Guilford Public Schools
c/o Mark Samarruca, Esq.
Sullivan, Lettick & Schoen
646 Prospect Avenue
Hartford, CT 06105
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission