Freedom of Information Commission
of the State of Connecticut
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Charles H. Sienkiewicz and Bi-Tech, Inc.,
against Docket #FIC 1995-328
Fred J. Menditto, New Britain Tax Collector,
and Seth Feigenbaum, Assistant City Attorney,
City of New Britain, Office of Corporation Counsel,
Respondents August 28, 1996
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 5, 1996, at which time the complainants 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. It is found that on September 21, 1995, the complainants requested that the respondent tax collector provide them with access to inspect and/or copy records containing motor vehicle registration and birth date information.
3. It is found that on September 21, 1995, the respondent tax collector denied the complainants’ request, stating that such records were no longer available pursuant to a directive of the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
4. It is further found that the respondent tax collector consulted the respondent assistant city attorney concerning the complainant’s request and was advised not to disclose the requested records.
5. By letter dated September 25 and filed September 29, 1995, supplemented by letter dated November 22 and filed November 28, 1995, the complainants appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by denying them access to inspect or copy the requested records.
6. On February 28, 1996, the respondents filed a motion to implead the state Department of Motor Vehicles (hereinafter “DMV”), which was denied by the undersigned hearing officer at the hearing on this matter.
7. It is found that complainant Sienkiewicz is a private investigator who has a contract with DMV granting him access to DMV files, and that the complainant also sought access to the requested records maintained by the respondent tax collector pursuant to such contract.
8. It is concluded that the Commission lacks jurisdiction to enforce the complainant’s right of access pursuant to the contract described in paragraph 7, above.
9. It is found that the City of New Britain’s (hereinafter “city”) tax assessor maintains a computer list containing the requested information pertaining to all individuals in the city who have motor vehicles registered with DMV and that such list is provided to him by the DMV on computer disk or tape; and it is further found that the assessor provides such list to the respondent tax collector for the purpose of collecting personal property taxes.
10. It is found that the requested list maintained by the respondent tax collector is a public record within the meaning of §§1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.
11. The respondents claim that the requested list is exempt from disclosure pursuant to §14-10, G.S., and a related June 16, 1995 letter that the respondent tax collector received from the DMV division one chief (hereinafter “the letter”).
12. The complainants maintain that §14-10, G.S., only applies to records in the custody of the DMV and does not apply to records maintained by the respondents and that the respondents grossly misinterpreted the letter from DMV.
13. Section 14-10, G.S., provides, in relevant part:
(b)(1) All records of the motor vehicle department pertaining to the application for registration, and the registration, of motor vehicles of the current or previous three years shall be open to public inspection at the main office of the commissioner during office hours, in accordance with the provisions of this subsection. Any such records over three years old may be destroyed in the discretion of the commissioner. (2) Before disclosing the name, address or registration number of an applicant or registrant from such records or allowing the inspection of any such record containing such a name, address or number, the commissioner shall require the person or entity making the request to (A) complete an application which shall be on a form prescribed by the commissioner and include the person’s full name and residential address, (B) provide two forms of acceptable identification and (C) pay a fee of fifteen dollars to the commissioner. …The commissioner shall mail a notice of such application to the applicant or registrant who is the subject of the request. The notice shall contain the name and address of the person making the request. The commissioner shall make such disclosure or permit such inspection at least seven days after the date of receipt of the completed application, identification and fee. The provisions of this subdivision shall not apply to a federal, state or local agency, including any court or law enforcement agency in carrying out its functions, or a private person or entity acting on behalf of a federal, state or local agency in carrying out its functions. …
(e) The provisions of this section shall not apply to registration, license information or driver history furnished pursuant to a contract entered into by the commissioner with any person, firm, labor union or nonprofit organization who satisfies the commissioner that the information is properly required in connection with the conduct of such entity’s business or activity. [Emphasis added.]
14. It is concluded that §14-10, G.S., only applies to records maintained by the DMV and does not apply to records maintained by the respondent tax collector.
15. The letter described in paragraph 11, above, from the DMV division one chief reads as follows:
“Any requests for registration and/or title information from any individual or business employed by a tax collector is subject to all rules and policies of the Disclosure Act [§14-10, G.S.].
If the tax collector directly requests the information the disclosure requirements will be waived and the information will be given directly to the TAX COLLECTOR ONLY.”
16. It is concluded that the letter described in paragraphs 11 and 15, above, neither supersedes nor states an exemption to the disclosure requirements of the FOI Act.
17. The respondents also claim that the birth dates contained within the requested list are exempt from disclosure pursuant to §1-19(b)(2), G.S.
18. Section 1-19(b)(2), G.S., permits the nondisclosure of “personnel or medical and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy.”
19. It is found that the requested list is not a personnel, medical or similar file within the meaning of §1-19(b)(2), G.S., and it is therefore concluded that the requested list is not exempt from disclosure pursuant to §1-19(b)(2), G.S.
20. It is therefore concluded that by failing to provide the complainants with access to inspect or copy the requested list, the respondents violated §1-19(a), G.S.
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 provide the complainants with access to inspect the requested list, and provide them with any requested copies of such list free of charge.
2. Henceforth, the respondents shall strictly comply with the requirements of §1-19(a), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of August 28, 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:
Charles H. Sienkiewicz and BiTech, Inc.
P.O. Box 883
Rocky Hill, CT 06067
Fred J. Menditto, New Britain Tax Collector, and Seth Feigenbaum, Assistant City Attorney, City of New Britain, Office of Corporation Counsel,
c/o Irena J. Urbaiak, Esq.
City of New Britain
27 West Main Street
New Britain, CT 06051
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission