FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by

FINAL DECISION

Joseph Belliveau,  

Complainant

 

against

Docket #FIC 1996-241

Vernon Police Department,  

Respondent

March 26, 1997

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 26, 1996, at which time the complainant and 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. It is found that by letter dated May 23, 1996, the complainant requested that the chief of the respondent department provide him with copies of the following information from the case file concerning his son’s death:

(a) Christopher Stevenson’s January 5, 1996 statement;
(b) the 911 tape recording of the call to the respondent;
(c) the first four pages of the search warrant;
(d) all supplemental reports from Detective Zamichiei; and
(e) the polaroid photographs taken by Detective Zamichiei and all other photographs.

3. It is found that on behalf of the respondent, by letter dated May 29, 1996, Lieutenant Greenier advised the complainant that the records described in paragraphs 2(b) and 2(e), of the findings, above, had already been provided to his attorney.

4. It is found that by letter dated June 2, 1996, and by telephone call to Lieutenant Greenier on June 5, 1996, the complainant repeated his request for the records described in paragraphs 2(a), 2(c), 2(d) and 2(e) of the findings, above, and asked that he be given access to the respondent’s case file #94-196 so that he could more specifically identify the records he wanted copied.

5. It is found that by letter dated June 6, 1996, Lieutenant Greenier advised the complainant that the respondent would provide him with: a) copies of the records described in paragraphs 2(a), 2(c) and 2(d) of the findings, above, at a fee of fifty (.50) cents per page; b) copies of the photographs requested in paragraph 2(e) of the findings, above, with the exception of the nude photographs of Mr. Stevenson, which the Commission declined to order the disclosure of in Docket #FIC 94-139, Joseph Belliveau against Vernon Police Department; and c) access to case file #94-196, provided he paid the hourly wage rate of $15.50 per hour of the clerk assigned to sit with him while he reviewed the case file.

6. By letter of complaint dated June 13, 1996, and filed on June 17, 1996, the complainant appealed to the Commission and alleged that the respondent was discriminating against him by charging him exorbitant fees for documents, and a fee to have a clerk watch him review case file #94-196.

7. The Commission takes administrative notice of the case file and final decision in Docket #FIC 94-139, Joseph Belliveau against Vernon Police Department.

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

9. Section 1-15(a), G.S., in relevant part provides that:

[a]ny person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record. The fee for any copy provided in accordance with this section … by (1) … a state agency or a department … shall not exceed twenty-five cents per page, and (2) by all other public agencies, as defined in section 1-18a, shall not exceed fifty cents per page. If any copy provided in accordance with said sections requires a transcription, or if any person applies for a transcription of a public record, the fee for such transcription shall not exceed the cost thereof to the public agency.

10. Section 1-19(a), G.S., in relevant part provides that:

… every person shall have the right to inspect such [public] 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 .…

11. It is found that the fifty cents per page fee charged by the respondent for copies of the requested records described in paragraphs 2(a), (c), (d) and (e), above, is permitted under 1-15(a), G.S., and that the respondent did not violate the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by imposing such charges.

12. It is found however, that the FOI Act does not permit a public agency to charge for the hourly salary of employees it assigns to sit with a requester while he inspects public records; and it is therefore concluded that the respondent violated 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., by charging the complainant for the employee’s time, as described in paragraph 5, above.

13. It is concluded that the respondent violated the provisions of 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to promptly comply with the complainant’s May 23, 1996 request for copies of specified records, and his June 2, 1996 request for access to case file #94-196.

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

1. If the respondent has not already provided the complainant with copies of all of the records described in paragraphs 2(a), 2(c), 2(d) and 2(e) of the findings, above, with the exception of the nude photographs of Mr. Stevenson, then it shall immediately provide copies of the records to the complainant, free of charge.

2. If the respondent has not already provided the complainant with access to its case file #94-196 so that the complainant can review and identify the records he wants copied, then it shall do so forthwith, and provide the copies of the records to the complainant, free of charge.

3. The Commission continues to decline to order the disclosure of the photographs of Mr. Stevenson described in paragraph 5, of the findings, above.

4. Henceforth the respondent shall strictly and promptly comply with the records requirements set forth in 1-15(a) and 1-19, G.S.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 26, 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:

Joseph Belliveau
PO Box 462
Ellington, CT 06029

Vernon Police Department
ATTN: Sergeant Milton Hardy
725 Hartford Turnpike
Vernon, CT 06066

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1996-241/FD/eal/04041997