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., Philip D. Tegeler and Connecticut Civil Liberties Union Foundation,  

Complainants

 

against

Docket #FIC 1996-431

Housing Authority, Town of West Hartford,  

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 July 15, 1996, the complainants requested that the respondent provide them with copies of, among other things, the following items:

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

b. the list of any and all persons, including racial composition, who were removed from the 8 wait list since June 1, 1993;

c. a list of the date of issuance and racial composition of those who currently have a 8 certificate that was issued by the respondent;

d. a list of the racial composition of those with a 8 certificate that is administered by the respondent but was issued by another public housing authority;

e. the list of all current low income and/or moderate rental housing that is owned and/or managed by the respondent, including the date of occupancy and racial composition of the occupants; and

f. 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. 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. It is found that on July 15, 1996, the respondent made available to the complainants all records it believed were responsive to the complainants’ broad requests, but it denied the complainants’ request for a waiver of copying fees. Also at that time, the complainants expressed their belief that certain records were missing but they did not identify any particular records.

5. It is also found that the respondent provided the complainants with seventy-nine pages of documents at a cost of $39.50.

6. It is found that the records provided to the complainants by the respondent are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.

7. By letter dated and filed on August 8, 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 a waiver of copying fees pursuant to 1-15(d), G.S.

8. The respondent contends that it made available to the complainants all records maintained by it that it believed were requested by the complainants. The respondent also contends that many records sought by the complainants do not exist in the form requested and that it is not required to create new documents or conduct research under the provisions of the FOI Act. Finally, the respondent claims that the complainants have not established the right to a fee waiver pursuant to 1-15(d), G.S.

9. 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."

10. It is found that the records requested in paragraph 2, above, are not maintained or kept on file within the meaning of 1-19(a), G.S., although raw data made available to the complainants by the respondent can be used as the basis of research by the complainants.

11. It is therefore concluded that the respondent did not violate any provisions of the FOI Act with respect to the allegations contained in paragraph 7, above, concerning the denial of public records.

12. With respect to the allegations concerning the denial of a fee waiver contained in paragraph 7, above, the respondent claims that the complainants never submitted the name or income of an indigent person for whom the records were allegedly requested, and that the complainants’ claim that the request benefits the general welfare was made to the respondent for the first time at the hearing into this matter.

13. Section 1-15(d), G.S., in relevant part states:

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.

14. It is found that when considering requests for waivers of fees based on indigency, the respondent considers the income level of the individual seeking indigency status.

15. It is also found that the only persons known to the respondent to be seeking a fee waiver were the complainants who never submitted income information to the respondent.

16. It is also found that the complainants did not seek a finding that their request benefits the general welfare from the respondent prior to or at the time of its requests to the respondent.

17. It is therefore concluded that under the facts of this case it is inappropriate for the Commission to overturn the respondent’s determination to deny a fee waiver to the complainants pursuant to 1-15(d), G.S.

18. It is accordingly concluded that the respondent did not violate the provisions of the FOI Act under the facts of this case.

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

Housing Authority, Town of West Hartford
c/o Rudolph P. Arnold, Esq.
Arnold & Associates
80 Cedar Street
Hartford, CT 06106

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1996-431/FD/eal/03201997