FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

FINAL DECISION
Docket #FIC 1996-176
February 13, 1997
In the Matter of a Complaint by Marc A. Mittaud, Complainant
against
First Selectman, Town of Canaan and Town Clerk, Town of Canaan, Respondents

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 12, 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 March 7, 1996, the complainant requested from the respondent first selectman access to the letter of resignation of building official William Jenks of the town of Sharon. The complainant also orally requested Mr. Jenks’ letter of request from the respondent town clerk on February 27, 1996, who referred the request to the respondent first selectman at that time.

3. It is found that at the time of the complainant’s request to the town clerk on February 27, 1996, she informed him that she was unable to locate the requested record.

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

5. By letter dated March 7, 1996, and filed with the Commission on March 8, 1996, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by denying him access to inspect the requested record.

6. Section 1-19(a), G.S., in relevant part states: "…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…."

7. It is found that on December 27, 1996 when the respondent first selectman learned that the complainant sought the resignation letter, he searched for the letter but was unable to locate it.

8. It is found that the respondent first selectman contacted Mr. Jenks to ask whether Mr. Jenks had retained a copy of the letter, which Mr. Jenks had not.

9. It is also found that Mr. Jenks drafted a new resignation letter which he then forwarded to the first selectman and to the complainant as well.

10. It is found that finally in late March or early April the first selectman located the original letter of resignation written by Mr. Jenks, which the first selectman then forwarded to the complainant.

11. The respondents argue that because they never denied the complainant’s request for the letter of resignation and because they made diligent efforts to locate the document, they did not violate the provisions of the FOI Act. They requested that this Commission impose civil penalties against the complainant for having filed a frivolous complaint.

12. It is found that the delay in providing the requested record to the complainant was due to the improper filing of it by the first selectman.

13. It is concluded that the provision of the requested record by the respondents to the complainant was not "prompt" within the meaning of 1-19(a), G.S.

14. It is therefore concluded that the respondents violated the promptness provisions of 1-19(a), G.S., under the facts of this case.

15. It is accordingly found that the complainant did not file the appeal in this matter frivolously, without reasonable grounds and solely for the purpose of harassing the respondents within the meaning of 1-21(b)(2), G.S.

16. The respondents’ request for the imposition of civil penalties against the complainant is therefore denied.

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

1. The respondents shall henceforth strictly comply with the promptness provisions of 1-19(a), G.S.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of February 13, 1997.

__________________________

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:

Marc A. Mittaud
43 Dublin Road
Falls Village, CT 06031

First Selectman, Town of Canaan; and Town Clerk, Town of Canaan
c/o Judith Dixon, Esq.
Dixon & Brooks
45 Center Street
Winsted, CT 06098

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1996-176/FD/eal/02211997