FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Michael Board and Killingworth Taxpayer's Association,
against Docket #FIC 94-31 and Docket #FIC 94-32
Robert Norton, Chairman, Regional School District No. 17;
and Charles F. Sweetman, Superintendent, Regional School District No. 17,
Respondents December 29, 1994
The above-captioned matters were consolidated and heard as contested cases on August 11, 1994, at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. (Robert Norton, Chairman, Regional School District No. 17 is a respondent in Docket #FIC 94-32 only; Charles F. Sweetman, Superintendent, Regional School District No. 17 is a respondent in both cases.) At the hearing, the complainants objected to both respondents being represented by the same counsel, which objection the Hearing Officer declined to address after representations by counsel for the respondents that full disclosure of any possible conflict of interest had been made to the respondents. On his own motion, and with the consent of the parties, the Hearing Officer made a full exhibit in this case all of the testimony and documentary evidence in Docket #FIC 94-45, Elizabeth Allen against Charles F. Sweetman, Superintendent of Schools and Gary Shettle, Director of Finance, Regional School District No. 17.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:
1. The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.
2. By letter of complaint filed February 4, 1994 and docketed as FIC 94-31, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that their January 21 and January 28, 1994 requests to inspect certain records had been denied.
Docket #FIC 94-31 and Docket #FIC 94-32 Page 2
3. By another letter of complaint also filed February 4, 1994 and docketed as FIC 94-32, the complainants again appealed to the Commission, alleging that requests on December 14 and December 29, 1993 and January 13, 21 and 28, 1994 to inspect certain records had been denied.
4. It is found that the complainants made a written request dated December 8, 1994 to inspect certain documents relating to the superintendent's life insurance policy.
5. It is found that the complainants visited the offices of the respondents on December 14, 1994 and were given the opportunity to inspect the records identified in their December 8, 1993 letter, including the originals of such records, insofar as such records actually existed.
6. It is also found that the respondents made copies of various documents for the complainants, including checks, letters, an accounting page, an agreement dated 6/26/91 regarding the policy, a page from a 150-page document, and a letter dated 8/10/93 regarding the policy.
7. It is found that the complainants returned to the respondents' offices the next day and picked up and paid for the copies of the records described in paragraph 6, above.
8. It is found that the complainants then by letter dated December 28, 1993 and received by the respondents on December 29, 1993, asked to see the originals of checks concerning the life insurance policy.
9. It is found that the complainants returned to the respondents' offices on December 28, 1993, were given the opportunity to inspect the checks, were given copies of the backs of the checks that the complainants accepted and paid for, and were offered copies of other records that the complainants did not accept.
10. It is found that the complainants then by letter dated January 13, 1994 asked the respondents for an opportunity to view the superintedent's "life insurance file" and certain other budget/referendum files not at issue in this case.
11. It is found that access to the life insurance policy itself is not at issue in this case.
12. It is also found that the respondent maintains no centralized file concerning the superintendent's life insurance policy.
Docket #FIC 94-31 and Docket #FIC 94-32 Page 3
13. It is found that the complainant Board made an appointment to inspect the requested records for January 21, 1994.
14. It is found that the complainant Board was unable to keep that appointment, but sent two other individuals in his place.
15. It is found that the respondents had prepared another package of copies of documents for the complainant Board, but declined to deliver the copies to the two other individuals when they refused to indicate in writing that they were accepting them on behalf of Board.
16. It is found that the complainant Board visited the respondents' offices on January 28, 1994 to inspect records concerning the life insurance policy.
17. It is found that the respondents' secretary was unavailable to meet with Board on January 28, but that the superintendent met with him for more than an hour.
18. It is also found that the complainants were given access to the various files containing records concerning the life insurance policy.
19. It is found that the complainant Board made another appointment to inspect records concerning the life insurance policy for February 4, 1994.
20. It is found that Board was unable to keep that appointment, but again sent other individuals in his place.
21. The respondents maintain that at no time were the complainants denied access to any public records.
22. The complainants, however, maintain that they were frequently denied access to public records.
23. In support of their claim, the complainants offered evidence that:
a. the respondents wrote letters that over-stated or misrepresented what records had been provided to the complainants;
b. the complainants were never shown all the requested "checks," but only "vouchers;"
c. some of the documents shown to the complainants were copies instead of originals;
Docket #FIC 94-31 and Docket #FIC 94-32 Page 4
d. the complainants were bombarded with unrequested information;
e. mismatched staple holes and ambiguity about what documents were atttached to other documents or contained in other envelopes were evidence that the complainaints were not provided everything they requested.
24. In turn, the respondents offered evidence to prove that they were aware of all the records requested by the complainants, and had promptly provided access to all of them.
25. It is found that the complainants and respondents offered conflicting testimony and evidence in support of their opposing claims.
26. It is also found that the pre-existing adversarial posture of the complainants and the respondents created an atmosphere of mutual distrust and miscommunication.
27. It is found, however, that the respondents promptly provided access to the records requested by the complainants.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The complaint is dismissed.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of December 28, 1994.
Debra L. Rembowski
Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 94-31 and Docket #FIC 94-32 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:
MICHAEL BOARD AND KILLINGWORTH TAXPAYER'S ASSOCIATION
P.O. Box 830
Killingworth, CT 06419
ROBERT NORTON, CHAIRMAN, REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 17; AND CHARLES F. SWEETMAN, SUPERINTENDENT, REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 17
c/o Donald W. Strickland, Esq.
Siegel, O'Connor, Schiff & Zangari, P.C.
370 Asylum Street
Hartford, CT 06103
Debra L. Rembowski
Clerk of the Commission