FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by

FINAL DECISION

Robin J. Hammeal-Urban, Legal Aid Society of Hartford County, Inc. and Philip D. Tegeler, Connecticut Civil Liberties Union Foundation,  

Complainants

 

against

Docket #FIC 1996-256

Ivan Pour, Executive Director, Glastonbury Housing Authority,  

Respondent

March 12, 1997

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 10, 1996, at which time the complainants and the respondent 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 respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

2. By a series of letters culminating in a request dated May 28, 1996, the complainants requested that the respondent provide them with copies of, among other things, the following items:

a. the current applicant/wait list for the 8 certificate program, including racial composition, date of application and any federal or local preference;

b. any and all documents relating to the updating or removal of names from the 8 certificate wait list;

c. any and all applicant/wait lists for the 8 certificate program, including racial composition, since June 1, 1993;

d. the date of issuance and racial composition of all persons who currently have a 8 certificate that was issued by the Glastonbury Housing Authority ("GHA");

e. the racial composition of all persons who have a 8 certificate that is administered by the GHA but was issued by another public housing authority;

f. the date of occupancy and racial composition of all current occupants of low income and/or moderate rental housing that is owned and/or managed by the GHA;

g. any and all wait lists for low income and/or moderate rental housing owned and/or managed by the GHA, including the date of application and racial composition;

h. any and all documents relating to updating and/or removal of names from the low income and/or moderate rental housing wait list; and

i. the list of all persons, including racial composition, who have been removed from the low income and/or moderate rental wait list since June 1, 1993.

3. In its May 28, 1996 letter, the complainants also requested that the respondent waive the copying fee pursuant to 1-15(d)(1), G.S., claiming that the documents have been requested on behalf of an indigent person and that the release of the requested records is for the benefit of the general welfare.

4. By letter dated May 29, 1996, the respondent denied the complainants’ request for a fee waiver but did provide 903 pages of requested records for 50 cents per page.

5. It is found that the 903 pages of records responsive to the complainants’ request are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.

6. By letter dated and filed on June 27, 1996, the complainants appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by denying them copies of public records and by denying a fee waiver pursuant to 1-15(d)(1), G.S. They also requested the imposition of civil penalties against the respondent.

7. With respect to the allegations concerning denial of copies of public records contained in paragraph 6, above, the respondent contends that while he has attempted to provide (and remains committed to providing) all records responsive to the complainants’ request, the existing records are not in the format requested by the complainants, and that he is not required to conduct research or to create new documents for the complainants. He claims that it is difficult to ascertain what specific records have not been provided to the complainants, but that if the complainants will work with him, he will provide all information he has.

8. Section 1-19(a), G.S., provides in relevant part"…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 of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15."

9. It is found that the items requested in paragraph 2, above, relating to racial composition, do not exist in the documentary form requested by the complainants and accordingly do not constitute records maintained or kept on file within the meaning of 1-19(a), G.S.

10. It is also found that the respondent made a special computer search to obtain as much racial data as he had responsive to the complainants’ request, but that these racial data are not linked in the respondent’s records to the other data sought by the complainants.

11. It is found that the complainants’ requests identified in paragraphs 2a. - 2i., above, require research, which the respondent is not required to conduct on behalf of the complainants’ pursuant to the provisions of the FOI Act. However, it is also found that the respondent made all its records including computerized records available to the complainants in this case, and that no requests for any copies thereof were denied.

12. It is therefore concluded that the respondent did not violate any provisions of the FOI Act with respect to the allegations contained in paragraph 6, above, concerning denial of public records.

13. With respect to the allegations concerning the denial of a fee waiver contained in paragraph 6, above, the respondent contends that to his knowledge the request for records was made by and for the complainants on behalf of their employing agencies’ investigations into possible civil rights violations, which agencies are not indigent individuals. He also contends that although he has provided fee waivers in the past based on the "general welfare," in this instance the complainants failed to present any case to him that in this case the general welfare would be served.

14. Section 1-15(d), G.S., in relevant part provides:

The public agency shall waive any fee provided for in this section when (1) the person requesting the records is an indigent individual, … (3) in its judgment, compliance with the applicant’s request benefits the general welfare.

15. It is found that the complainants requested records from the respondent in furtherance of investigations pursuant to their employment with their respective agencies. Furthermore, the complainants failed to prove to either the respondent or the Commission that the records relate to a dispute involving an indigent individual.

16. It is accordingly concluded that under the facts of this case, the respondent did not abuse his discretion in determining that a fee waiver was inappropriate under the provisions of 1-15(d)(1), G.S.

17. It is also found that based on the complainants’ representations to the respondent under the facts of this case, the respondent did not abuse its discretion in determining that a fee waiver was unwarranted under the provisions of 1-15(d)(3), G.S.

18. It is accordingly concluded that the respondent did not violate the provisions of the FOI Act by charging the complainants for copies of public records under the facts of this case.

19. In light of the foregoing findings and conclusions, the consideration of civil penalties in this case is inappropriate.

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

1. The complaint is hereby dismissed.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 12, 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:

Robin J. Hammeal-Urban, Legal Aid Society of Hartford County, Inc., and Philip D. Tegeler, Connecticut Civil Liberties Union Foundation
c/o Robin J. Hammeal-Urban
Legal Aid Society of Hartford County, Inc.
80 Jefferson Street
Hartford, CT 06106

Ivan Pour, Executive Director, Glastonbury Housing Authority
c/o Rudolph P. Arnold, Esq.
Arnold & Associates
80 Cedar Street
Hartford, CT 06106

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1996-256/FD/eal/03201997