Freedom of Information Commission
of the State of Connecticut
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
against Docket #FIC 95-254
Victor Rayhall, President,
Windham First Taxing District,
and Windham Town Clerk,
Respondents July 10, 1996
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on January 25, 1996, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts 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 dated July 11, 1995, the complainant requested that the respondent town clerk provide her with certified copies of the resignation letters of Dawn Niles and Paulette Haines (hereinafter the “Niles and Haines letters,” respectively) from the Windham First Taxing District (hereinafter “WFTD”).
3. It is found that the respondent town clerk provided the complainant with the Haines letter, but was unable to locate the Niles letter among the WFTD records deposited with her, and suggested that the complainant contact the WFTD.
4. By letter dated July 14, 1995, the complainant requested that respondent Rayhall provide her with copies of the Niles and Haines letters, as well as the resignation letter of Attorney Paul Prue from the WFTD (hereinafter the “Prue letter”).
5. Under cover letter dated July 19, 1995, respondent Rayhall provided the complainant with copies of the Niles and Haines letters, but indicated that he was still searching for the Prue letter.
6. By letter dated July 22, 1995, the complainant requested that respondent Rayhall: 1) “identify the factors inhibiting his search for the [Prue letter]” and 2) “inform [her] of the location at which [she] may view all files, records, letters, correspondence and similar instruments pertaining to the affairs of the WFTD.”
7. By letter dated July 28, 1995, respondent Rayhall informed the complainant of the steps he took in his unsuccessful search for the Prue letter, and directed the complainant to submit a written request to view any additional records.
8. By letter dated July 29, 1995, and filed August 1, 1995, the complainant appealed to the Commission and alleged that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by :
a) failing to release public information to her;
b) failing to maintain an office;
c) denying the public prompt access to documents in their possession;
d) failing to deposit all the tax district’s records at the Windham Town
Clerk’s office as ordered by the Public Records Administrator; and
e) failing to post regular office hours accessible to the public.
In addition, the complainant requested the imposition of a civil penalty against respondent Rayhall for the above alleged violations of the FOI Act.
9. It is found that, to the extent she maintains records of the WFTD, the respondent town clerk fully complied with the complainant’s request.
10. It is found that respondent Rayhall conducted a thorough search of the WFTD’s records and was unable to locate the Prue letter; and it is concluded that respondent Rayhall did not violate the FOI Act by failing to provide the complainant with a record not maintained by the WFTD.
11. It is found that respondent Rayhall maintains the WFTD’s records in a locked cabinet at the Windham Center Fire House, and that such records are only available for public inspection one hour and fifteen minutes prior to each quarterly meeting of the WFTD, or by appointment with respondent Rayhall or the clerk of the WFTD.
12. It is found that the town clerk maintains copies of some, but not all, of the WFTD’s records at town hall.
13. It is found that by letter dated August 3, 1994, the state Public Records Administrator ordered then WFTD President Dawn Niles to deposit the WFTD’s records at the Windham Town Hall.
14. It is concluded, however, that this Commission lacks jurisdiction to enforce an order of the Public Records Administrator; and furthermore, that the order referred to in paragraph 13, above, was rescinded on May 3, 1995.
15. Nevertheless, §1-19(a), G.S. , provides, in pertinent part:
“Except as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute, all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency, whether or not such records are required by any law or by any rule or regulation, 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 of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15. … Each such 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 pertaining to such agency shall be kept in the office of the clerk of the political subdivision in which such agency is located or of the secretary of the state, as the case may be…”.[Emphasis added.]
16. It is found that the WFTD’s records maintained as described in paragraph 11, above, are neither kept and maintained at a “regular office or place of business”, nor are they kept or maintained in an “accessible place,” within the meaning of §1-19(a), G.S.
17. It is therefore concluded that by failing to store all of the WFTD’s records with the town clerk, respondent Rayhall violated §1-19(a), G.S.
18. It is also concluded that by requiring the complainant to: 1) make an appointment prior to inspecting public records of the WFTD; and 2) submit her request to inspect public records in writing, respondent Rayhall further violated the provisions of §1-19(a), G.S., by imposing conditions precedent to the inspection of public records.
19. The Commission takes administrative notice of its final decisions in contested cases docket #FIC 93-245, Paul L. Trowbridge v. Paulette Haines, District Clerk, Windham First Taxing District and Donald Williams, Jr., Windham Town Attorney, and #FIC 95-82, Shirley Vigneri v. Windham First Taxing District.
20. It is also found that respondent Rayhall’s violations of §1-19(a), G.S., described in paragraphs 17 and 18, above, were without reasonable grounds.
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 with respect to the respondent town clerk.
2. Respondent Rayhall shall immediately turn over all of the WFTD’s records to the Windham town clerk’s office, as previously ordered in #FIC 95-82, and shall then advise the Commission in writing when that has been done.
3. Respondent Rayhall shall immediately provide the complainant with access to inspect any original records of the WFTD, as provided in §1-19(a), G.S.
4. Respondent Rayhall shall remit a civil penalty in the amount of one hundred ($100.00) dollars to the Commission, within one week of the mailing of the notice of final decision in this matter.
5. Henceforth, respondent Rayhall shall strictly comply with the requirements of §1-19(a), G.S.
6. Given respondent Rayhall’s claim of ignorance as to the prior decisions of this Commission, the Commission recommends that he provide a copy of the final decision in this matter to any successive officers of the WFTD, to promote institutional continuity and accountability.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of July 10, 1996.
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
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:
c/o Scott & Scott
P. Box 192
Colchester, CT 06415
Victor Rayhall, President, Windham First Taxing District
c/o Nicholas Kepple, Esq.
Box 3A, Anguilla Park
20 S. Anguilla Road
Pawcatuck, CT 06379
Windam Town Clerk
c/o Richard S. Cody, Esq.
21 East Main Street
P.O. Box 425
Mystic, CT 06355
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission