FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Robert J. Milne and Jane R. Milne,
against Docket #FIC 94-152
Eastford Town Clerk,
Respondent April 26, 1995
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 14, 1994, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, 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 filed on May 11, 1994, the complainants appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent failed to comply with their May 2, 1994 records request, and that she billed the complainants for copies of records that were not requested.
3. It is found that on May 2, 1994 the complainants made a written request to inspect records concerning all transactions between the Town of Eastford ("town") and Mr. Whitehouse relating to equipment rental and subcontracting services ("Whitehouse records").
4. By letter dated May 5, 1994, the complainants were informed by the town's first selectman that all non-exempt records were available for his review during regular office hours.
5. It is found that for approximately twenty years Mr. Whitehouse contracted goods and services to the town.
6. It is found that copies of invoices and checks paid to Whitehouse for his services are the only existing documents responsive to the complainant's request.
Docket #FIC 94-152 Page 2
7. It is found that the respondent town clerk is not the custodian of the Whitehouse records and therefore did not violate the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act under the facts of this case.
8. It is found that when they appeared to inspect the Whitehouse records the complainants were informed by the first selectman's clerk that the Whitehouse records could be found among other records presently kept in the town's vault located in the basement of the building where they stood.
9. It is found that the Whitehouse records are not segregated from other town documents, and the records at issue span at least twenty years, so that it would be necessary to search through each file to locate Whitehouse records.
10. It is found that the complainants declined to search for the Whitehouse records in the files located in the town's vault.
11. It is found further that the complainants requested that either the records be brought to the selectman's office for inspection, or that the town provide someone to oversee the complainants' search of the files and review of the Whitehouse records if conducted in the vault.
12. It is found that the respondent first selectman's clerk declined to either supervise the complainants' review of the files, or to search the files, pull the Whitehouse records, and then bring them to the respondent selectman's office.
13. It is found that nothing in the FOI Act requires a public agency, official or employee to conduct research in order to comply with a records request for public documents, to supervise or oversee inspection of such records, or to designate another to do so.
14. It is concluded that neither the first selectman as the custodian of the Whitehouse records, nor his clerk violated the FOI Act in this case.
15. It is found that the complainant's second allegation stems from a two dollar charge for copies of certain records sent to them. While the complainants initially disputed the charge because they deny that there had been a records request for the information forwarded to them, they nevertheless kept the copies of the documents and did not request a refund.
16. At the hearing on this matter the complainants informed the hearing officer that they were seeking an "opinion" regarding the second allegation in their FOI Act appeal.
Docket #FIC 94-152 Page 3
17. The Commission, at its discretion, provides such advisory opinions or declaratory rulings in accordance with 1-21j-48 of its regulations and not as part of its adjudication of a contested case.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The complaint is hereby dismissed.
2. The Commission notes that in an effort to facilitate compliance with the complainants' request to inspect the Whitehouse records, the complainants have been informed that in the vault there is a table and chair in a heated, well-lit location for review of any records maintained there.
3. The Commission cautions the complainants that it will not adjudicate frivolous complaints, or claims of FOI Act violations where the complainants fail to avail themselves of reasonable opportunities for compliance--as existed in this case.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of April 26, 1995.
Debra L. Rembowski
Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 94-152 Page 4
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:
ROBERT J. MILNE AND JANE R. MILNE
P.O. Box 340
Eastford, CT 06242
EASTFORD TOWN CLERK
c/o Nicholas F. Kepple, Esq.
Kepple & Morgan
20 South Anguilla Road
Box 3A Anguilla Park
Pawcatuck, CT 06379
Debra L. Rembowski
Clerk of the Commission