In the Matter of a Complaint by            Final Decision


Paul L. Trowbridge,




            against              Docket #FIC 93-245


Paulette Haines, District Clerk, Windham First Taxing District and

Donald Williams, Jr., Windham Town Attorney,


                        Respondents                 May 25, 1994


            The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 19, 1993, at which time the complainant and respondents 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.         Paulette Haines as District Clerk (hereinafter "district clerk"), and the Windham First Taxing District (hereinafter "district") are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.


            2.         The Commission takes administrative notice of the case file, record and final decision in its contested case docket #FIC 93-101, Shirley Vigneri v. Windham First Taxing District, Windham First Taxing District Charter Study Committee and Windham Town Clerk (hereinafter "FIC 93-101").


            3.         It is found that on Wednesday, July 28, 1993, at approximately 2:30 p.m., the complainant went to the respondent district clerk's home to request a copy of the district's amended by-laws (hereinafter "by-laws").


            4.         It is found that the complainant sought to obtain a copy of the by-laws at the respondent district clerk's residence because at the hearing on FIC 93-101, testimony was adduced that the district's public records were being kept at the respondent district clerk's residence and the South Windham Fire Department (hereinafter "fire department").


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            5.         It is found that on July 28, 1993 the complainant had prepared a written records request to give to the respondent district clerk when he appeared at her residence to request a copy of the by-laws.


            6.         It is found that the respondent district clerk was not at her residence on July 28, 1993 when the complainant sought to obtain a copy of the by-laws, and consequently he was unable to get a copy of the by-laws.


            7.         It is found that the complainant asked the respondent district clerk's twelve year old daughter to sign and date his records request to document that he had gone to the residence and requested a copy of the by-laws.


            8.         It is also found that immediately after leaving the district clerk's residence the complainant went with request in hand to the fire department, at approximately 3 p.m., and attempted to obtain a copy of the by-laws, but the fire department was closed.


            9.         It is found that the complainant opted not to simply leave the request at either location because he thought it more prudent to be able to document his effort to obtain public records on July 28, 1994.


            10.       It is found that on July 28, 1993, subsequent to the complainant's visit to the district clerk's residence, the respondent town attorney prepared a letter, dated July 28, 1993, suggesting that in the future records requests concerning records held by the respondent district clerk be submitted in writing to the district clerk.  Specifically, the complainant was instructed to:


            a.  "Put in writing [the] request for viewing the documents . . . .


            b.  Mail this request to the [d]istrict [c]lerk; or


            c.  Contact [the district clerk] by telephone or mail and set up an appointment to discuss your request (if simply listing the documents in writing is not sufficient);


            d.  Thereafter, the documents will be produced in a reasonable amount of time."


Docket #FIC 93-245                                        Page 3


            11.       By letter dated August 3, 1993 (hereinafter "August complaint letter"), and filed with the Commission on August 6, 1993, the complainant alleged that the respondent district clerk failed to provide access to, and copies of, the district's public records, in violation of 1-15, G.S.


            12.       The respondents maintain that the Commission is without subject matter in this case because the complainant's August complaint letter was not a complaint and not docketed as such by the Commission.

            13.       By letter dated September 3, 1993, the complainant was informed that his August complaint letter had not sufficiently alleged a violation of the Freedom of Information Act.


            14.       However, by way of clarification to his August 3 complaint letter, the complainant filed with the Commission on September 14, 1993 (hereinafter "September clarification"), a letter which constituted a more definite and detailed statement of his August complaint letter.


            15.       Specifically, the complainant further alleged in his September clarification that he had attempted to hand-deliver a request for district records to the district clerk's residence because the district maintains no regular office, and although copies of the district's public records are sometimes available at the Windham Town Clerk's (hereinafter "town clerk") office, many of the records are kept at the residence of the respondent district clerk and at the fire department, in violation of 1-15, G.S.


            16.       The complainant also requested the imposition of civil penalties in accordance with 1-21i(b)(2), G.S.


            17.       It is therefore found that the complainant's August complaint letter, as made more definite and detailed by his September clarification, was sufficient to establish the Commission's jurisdiction in this matter, effective August 6, 1993, when the August complaint letter was in fact filed with the Commission.


            18.       Section 1-15(a), G.S., states in relevant part that "[a]ny person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record."


            19.       Section 1-19(a), G.S., states in pertinent part that:


            ... all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency, ... shall be public records and every


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            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 ....  Each [public] agency shall keep and maintain all public records in its custody at its regular office or place of business in an accessible place and, if there is no such office or place of business, the public records pertaining to such agency shall be kept in the office of the clerk of the political subdivision in which such public agency is located....  [Emphasis added.]


            20.       It is found that although some copies of the district's public records, such as minutes, may have been available at the town clerk's office, at the time the complainant attempted to make his records request the subject records were not being kept at the district clerk's office, nor the district's regular place of business, nor in the town clerk's office as required by 1-19(a), G.S.


            21.       The respondents maintain that there was no records request by the complainant.  They contend that the complainant neither made an in-person nor written request to the respondent district clerk for public records.


            22.       It is found upon the facts of this case, that although the complainant chose not to leave his written request, the district clerk's absence from the location where the records were purportedly being kept, and the fire department's closure made it impossible for the complainant to make an in-person request on July 28, 1993 for access to, or copies of the public records at issue.


            23.       Nevertheless, it is found that the respondents had some knowledge of the complainant's records request as evidenced by the respondent town attorney's July 28, 1993 letter.


            24.       It is found that because the respondent district clerk failed to prove that any district records being maintained at her residence were being maintained there in accordance with 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., she and the district are therefore in violation of the access provisions of 1-19(a), G.S.


            25.       At the hearing on this matter the respondent town attorney agreed to promptly provide the complainant with a copy of the requested by-laws.


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            26.       The complaint is dismissed against the respondent town attorney.


            27.       The Commission declines to impose a civil penalty against the respondent district and district clerk.


            The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended

on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:


            1.         Henceforth the respondent district and district clerk shall fully comply with the provisions of 1-19(a), G.S.


            2.         In accordance with 1-19(a), G.S., the respondent district clerk shall forthwith arrange to:


            (a)  either designate an accessible office or principal place of business and cause to be located there all of the district's public records, with regular office hours held and posted at both the designated location and in the town clerk's office, or

            (b)  place the district's public records in the town clerk's office.


            3.         The respondent district clerk shall provide the Commission with an affidavit attesting to the placement of the district's public records in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 2 of this order, above, within thirty (30) days of the date of mailing of the notice of final decision in this case.


Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 25, 1994.



                                    Elizabeth A. Leifert

                                    Acting Clerk of the Commission


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Mr. Paul L. Trowbridge

6 South Street Ext.

Willimantic, CT 06226


Paulette Haines, District Clerk, Windham First Taxing District and Donald Williams, Jr., Windham Town Attorney

c/o Douglas J. Williams, Esq.

Boland, St. Onge & Brouillard

211 Kennedy Drive, P.O. Box 550

Putnam, CT 06260



                                    Elizabeth A. Leifert

                                    Acting Clerk of the Commission