In the Matter of a Complaint by                        Final Decision


Lewis H. McClaine,




                against                   Docket #FIC 95-208


Director, Bridgeport Office of Planning and Economic Development,


                                Respondent                          June 12, 1996


                The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 27, 1995, at which time the respondent appeared but the complainant failed to appear, and February 21, 1996, at which time both the complainant and the respondent 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 respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.


                2.             It is found that by letter dated May 22, 1995 ("May request"), the complainant requested that he be provided with copies of the following: a) all records relating to the Cedar Street Co-op Community Development Block Grant ("block grant") project, b) the records of all other Bridgeport ("city") block grant projects, and c) seventeen other categories of records.


                3.             It is found that by letter dated May 25, 1995, the respondent acknowledged receipt of the complainant's May request and informed him that the request had been forwarded to the city attorney's office for review and instruction ("May response").


                4.             In its May response the respondent further advised the complainant that because the block grant program has been in operation in the city for twenty-one years, thousands of pages of documentation exist and are responsive to his May request, and a deposit of five hundred dollars for reproduction of the first one thousand pages, at a charge of fifty cents per page, was required.


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                5.             It is found that in June 1995 ("June letter"), the complainant wrote the respondent a letter clarifying his May request, and asking that he be permitted to bring a copying machine into the respondent's office to copy the subject records.


                6.             By letter of complaint dated and hand-delivered to the Commission on June 22, 1995, the complainant alleged that the respondent had a) not complied with his May request, and b) failed to respond to, or comply with, his June letter.


                7.             By correspondence dated February 8, 1996, and filed with the Commission on February 13, 1996, the respondent counter-claimed that the complainant's appeal is "frivolous, without reasonable grounds and solely for the purpose of harassing the city."


                8.             It is found that the requested records are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.


                9.             At the hearing on this matter, the respondent conceded that there is an agreement between him and the complainant allowing for the use of a personal copier to reproduce the records at issue.


                10.           It is found that by letter dated July 3, 1995, the respondent informed the complainant that he could inspect all existing, nonexempt records.


                11.           It is found, however, that the complainant's May request was in the possession of the city attorney's office for approximately three months--from June 1995 through September 1995--and as a result the subject records were not made available to the complainant until October 17, 1995--five months after his May request.


                12.           It is found that the respondent only has the city's block grant records for the last seven years, from 1989 through 1995.


                13.           The respondent contends that the block grant records include tax return and other exempt financial information of property owners.


                14.           It is found that the complainant is not seeking any tax return or other financial data relating to the property owners involved with the various block grant projects.


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                15.           It is found that instead of the respondent making the original block grant records and files available to the complainant, he has instructed his staff to photocopy the documents contained in the block grant files and then make the copies available to the complainant.


                16.           It is found that the respondent has made copies of all block grant files in his custody or control for the years 1992 through 1995.


                17.           It is found that while the respondent has made some documents available to the complainant for copying, he has nevertheless failed to promptly or fully comply with the complainant's May request.


                18.           It is therefore concluded that the respondent's failure to provide the complainant with access to the requested records violated the provisions of 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.


                19.           It is found that the complainant's appeal to this Commission is not frivolous, and was not taken for the purpose of harassing the respondent.


                The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:


                1.             The respondent shall immediately provide the complainant with a copy of the block grant records for 1992 through 1995, free of charge, and furnish to the complainant an affidavit stating that the records provided constitute the only records responsive to his May request for the years 1992 through 1995.


                2.             The respondent shall immediately retrieve and copy all of the city's block grant records for 1989 through 1991, provide them to the complainant, free of charge, and furnish to the complainant an affidavit stating that the records provided constitute the only records responsive to his May request for the years 1989 through 1991.


                3.             In complying with paragraph 2 of this order, the respondent may redact, delete or blacken tax return or financial data of property owners involved in the city's block grant projects from 1989 through 1991.  If the respondent chooses to redact the aforementioned tax return or financial data, then the respondent must so state in the affidavits ordered in paragraphs 1 and 2, of this order, above.


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                4.             Additionally, the respondent shall immediately execute, or cause to be executed, a search of all files within his custody and control for those records responsive to that part of the complainant's May request specified in items numbered one (1) through seventeen (17) of the request and referenced in paragraph 2 of the findings, above.  If no records exist which are responsive to the complainant's May request as detailed in items 1 through 17 of that request, then the respondent shall execute, or cause to be executed, an affidavit detailing the particulars of the search conducted and stating that no such documents exist for specified items.


                5.             The respondent shall provide the complainant with all documents and affidavits as directed in paragraphs 1 and 2 of this order, no later than seven days following the date of the mailing of notice of final decision in this case.


                6.             Henceforth, the respondent shall strictly comply with the public records requirements set forth in 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.


                7.             The respondent's counter-claim is hereby dismissed.


Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 12, 1996.



                                                Elizabeth A. Leifert

                                                Acting Clerk of the Commission


Docket #FIC 95-208                                             Page Five





Lewis H. McClaine

256 Strawberry Hill Avenue

Stamford, CT 06902


Director, Bridgeport Office of Planning and Economic Development

c/o John H. Barton, Esq.

Office of the Attorney General

202 State Street

Bridgeport, CT 06604



                                                Elizabeth A. Leifert

                                                Acting Clerk of the Commission