FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by                        Final Decision

 

Martin J. Lynch,

 

                                Complainant

 

                against                   Docket #FIC 95-33

 

Labor Relations Unit, State of Connecticut,

Department of Public, Safety, Division of, State Police,

 

                                Respondent                          January 24, 1996

 

                The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 14, 1995, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to the facts, and presented testimony and exhibits 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.             It is found that on January 21, 1995, the complainant wrote a letter to Lieutenant Schweitzer of Connecticut's Department of Public Safety, Division of State Police, Troop F, Westbrook, requesting specific information relating to speed monitoring activities on December 31, 1994 along Connecticut Route 9, Haddam ("speed trap"), that resulted in the issuance of motor vehicle complaint #E623388-1-94MI ("citation").

 

                3.             In his January letter the complainant requested the following:

 

                                a) identification of the state troopers who manned the speed monitoring device and issued the citation ("trooper identification");

 

                                b) documentation to demonstrate the speed monitoring device was calibrated under manufacturer's and state police criteria within the period preceding and following the issuance of the citation ("calibration information");

 

Docket #FIC 95-33                                               Page 2

 

                                c) documentation to show the trooper operating the device had adequate training and experience in its operation ("training information"); and

 

                                d) documentation to show the troopers followed Department of Public Safety Administrative and Operational Procedures in transmiting and validating evidence relating to the citation ("evidence procedure").

 

                4.             It is found that Lieutenant Schweitzer forwarded the complainant's letter of request to the unit where the state trooper who issued the citation is assigned.  Additionally, Schweitzer advised the complainant to also request the records from the respondent "who normally advise[s] field units with respect to requests under [the] Freedom of Information [Act]."

 

                5.             It is found that by letter to the respondent dated January 27, 1995, the complainant again requested the information relating to the citation and speed trap.

 

                6.             By reply letter dated February 1, 1995, the respondent declined to provide the requested records and claimed that the records were exempt from disclosure pursuant to "1-19(b)(3)(B) and 1-19(b)(4)" G.S.

 

                7.             By letter of complaint dated February 4, 1995, and filed with the Commmission on February 8, 1995, the complainant appealed the respondent's denial of his request.

 

                8.             It is found that the records at issue are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S.

 

                9.             At the hearing on this matter the respondent claimed that it meant to cite 1-19(b)(3)(C), not 1-19(b)(3)(B), G.S.,

as the basis for its claim of exemption.

 

                10.           Section 1-19(b)(3)(C), G.S., states that disclosure shall not be required of records of law enforcement agencies,

 

                not otherwise available to the public which records were compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of crime, if the disclosure of said records would result in the disclosure of ... (C) information to be used in a prospective law enforcement action if prejudicial to such action ...

 

Docket #FIC 95-33                                               Page 3

 

                11.           It is found that at the time of the complainant's request there was a pending motor vehicle prosecution stemming from the issuance of the citation ("citation prosecution").

 

                12.           It is found that the respondent failed to prove that disclosure of the subject records would have been prejudicial to the citation prosecution.

 

                13.           It is therefore concluded that the requested records are not exempt pursuant to 1-19(b)(3), G.S.

 

                14.           Section 1-19(b)(4), G.S., exempts from disclosure records pertaining to strategy and negotiation of pending claims or litigation "to which the public agency is a party until such litigation or claim has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled."

 

                15.           However, it is found that the respondent failed to prove that the requested records were records of strategy or negotiation, or that the respondent unit was a party to the citation prosecution.

 

                16.           It is therefore concluded that the records are not exempt pursuant to 1-19(b)(4), G.S.

 

                17.           The respondent contended that at the time of the request the trooper identification and calibration information were probably not in its possession because those records are sent to the state's attorney's office in preparation for prosecution of the citation.

 

                18.           The respondent conceded, however, that even if the records were in the possession of the state's attorney's office they would have been available to the complainant.

 

                19.           The respondent also conceded that the complainant was not informed that he could obtain the requested records from the state's attorney's office.

 

                20.           The respondent further conceded that the evidence procedure information is readily available at most public libraries throughout the state, but no one told the complainant.

 

                21.           It is therefore concluded that the respondent violated 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to promptly provide the complainant with copies of the requested records in its possession at the time of the request.

 

Docket #FIC 95-33                                               Page 4

 

                22.           The Commission also finds that the respondent did a great disservice to the complainant by failing to tell him that the records he sought were also available from the state's attorney's office and the public library.

 

                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 disclosure provisions of 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.

 

                2.             The respondent shall immediately provide the complainant with copies of its evidence procedure and training information records, more fully described in paragraph 3 of the findings above, free of charge.

 

                3.             The respondent shall immediately direct the employee responsible for maintaining its files to conduct a diligent search of all of the files relating to the citation and speed trap for the trooper identification records and calibration information at issue in this case.

 

                4.             The employee who conducts the search described in paragraph 3 of this order shall then execute an affidavit stating that either the trooper identification records and calibration information have been located in the respondent's files and provided to the complainant, or that such information cannot be found in the respondent's files.

 

                5.             If the identification and calibration records more fully described in paragraph 3 of the order, above, are in the respondent's files, the respondent shall immediately provide the complainant with copies of those records, free of charge.

 

                6.             The Commission warns the respondent that any future violation of the Freedom of Information Act may result in the imposition of the maximum civil penalty.

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of January 24, 1996.

 

                                                                             

                                                Elizabeth A. Leifert

                                                Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

Docket #FIC 95-33                                               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:

Martin J. Lynch

80 Spicer Hill Road

Ledyard, CT 06339

 

Labor Relations Unit, State of Connecticut, Department of Public Safety, Division of State Police

c/o Sharon M. Hartley, Esq.

Assistant Attorney General

110 Sherman Street

Hartford, CT 06105

 

                                                                             

                                                Elizabeth A. Leifert

                                                Acting Clerk of the Commission