FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Christopher Hoffman and New Haven Register,
against Docket #FIC 95-115
Stephen Dzwonchyk, Francis Sullivan, James Fraulo, Stephen
Bodak, Edward Sabatini, and Ansonia Municipal Parking Authority,
Respondents February 14, 1996
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 26, 1995, at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared, 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.
2. By letter of complaint dated April 7, 1995, and filed April 10, 1995, the complainants appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents: (a) unlawfully maintain certain financial records at the home of their secretary/treasurer; (b) denied them access to deposit slips verifying fees collected from their West Main Street parking lot ("lot records"); and (c) refused to disclose whether public documents are being stored in the agency's safety deposit box located at Shelton Savings Bank.
3. The complainants requested the imposition of civil penalties in accordance with 1-21i(b)(2), G.S.
4. The respondents do not dispute that its financial and lot records are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S.
Docket #FIC 95-115 Page 2
5. 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 person shall have the right to inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours or to receive a copy [thereof] .... 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 ... shall be kept in the office of the clerk of the political subdivision in which such public agency is located.... (Emphasis added.)
6. It is found that the respondents maintain the minutes of their meetings and most other public records of the agency in files located in Ansonia City Hall ("city hall").
7. It is found that the respondents have a long-standing policy of keeping all "working" financial records at the home of their incumbent secretary/treasurer.
8. It is found that in early March 1995, complainant Hoffman reviewed the respondents' records on file at city hall.
9. It is found that on or about March 29, 1995, after the respondents incumbent secretary/treasurer, James Fraulo ("Fraulo"), acknowledged to the complainant that some of the respondents' financial records were being kept at his residence, he agreed to move those records to city hall.
10. It is found, however, that on or about April 6, 1995, when complainant Hoffman again reviewed the respondents' files at city hall, no new records had been added to existing files.
11. It is found that the respondents failed to allege or prove that the financial records in the custody of Fraulo were being maintained at his residence in accordance with 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.
12. It is therefore concluded that the respondents violated the access and disclosure provisions of 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.
13. It is also found that the respondents' violation of the complainants' rights conferred under 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., was without reasonable grounds.
14. It is found that the respondents operate a municipal parking lot on West Main Street in Ansonia ("lot").
Docket #FIC 95-115 Page 3
15. It is found that on or about April 6, 1995, complainant Hoffman requested that the lot attendant give him access to the lot records stored at the site.
16. It is found that the lot attendant acknowledged that the records were on site, but refused to give the complainants access to them.
17. It is found that neither the lot attendant nor the respondents made any claim of exemption to disclosure for the lot records.
18. It is therefore concluded that the respondents violated the provisions of 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to provide access to the lot records.
19. It is also found that the respondents' violation of the complainants' rights conferred under 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., was without reasonable grounds.
20. It is found that on or about April 6, 1995, the complainants requested that the respondents provide them with information about the contents of a safety deposit box located at Shelton Savings Bank ("box"), and access to any public documents stored therein.
21. It is found that the respondents refused to answer the complainants' questions about the contents of the box, and Connecticut's Freedom of Information Act imposes no obligation on public agencies to answer questions of any kind.
22. It is further found that on or about June 28, 1995, the respondents had the box opened and it contained nothing.
23. The respondents claim that prior to June 28, 1995, the box was never accessed by anyone according to the Shelton Savings Bank's records.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The respondents shall immediately grant the complainants access to all of its financial and lot records.
2. Henceforth, the respondent shall strictly comply with the requirements of 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.
Docket #FIC 95-115 Page 4
3. In accordance with 1-19(a), G.S., the respondents shall forthwith arrange to:
(a) either designate an accessible office or principal place of business and cause to be located there all of the respondent agency's records--including its lot records and all financial records, with regular office hours held and posted at both the designated location and in the city clerk's office, or
(b) place the respondent agency's financial and lot records in the city clerk's office.
4. The respondents shall provide the complainants with an affidavit attesting to the placement of the agency's financial and lot records in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 3 of this order, above, within five (5) days of the date of mailing of the notice of final decision in this case.
5. The Commission notes that respondents Fraulo and Dzwonchyk resigned, effective June 30, 1995 and July 1, 1995, respectively. Nevertheless, a civil penalty in the amount of one hundred dollars ($100.00) is imposed against each of the named respondents. Within forty-five days of the date of mailing the notice of final decision in this case the respondent agency shall remit to this Commission its civil penalty payment in the amount of five hundred dollars ($500.00).
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of February 14, 1996.
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 95--115 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:
Christopher Hoffman and New Haven Register
Ansonia, CT 06401
Stephen Dzwonchyk, Francis Sullivan, James Fraulo, Stephen Bodak, Edward Sabatini and Ansonia Municipal Parking Authority
c/o James E. Sheehy, Esq.
City of Ansonia
303 Wakelee Avenue
Ansonia, CT 06401
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission