FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by

FINAL DECISION

Elizabeth Allen,  

Complainant

 

against

Docket #FIC 1996-455

Charles F. Sweetman, Jr. Superintendent of Schools, Regional School District #17, and Gary Shettle, Finance Director, Regional School District #17,  

Respondents

May 14, 1997

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 13, 1997, 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. It is found that on June 12, 1996, the complainant submitted, in person at the offices of the respondents, a written request to inspect bills rendered from the law firm of Siegel, O’Connor, Schiff and Zangari (the "law firm") and also respondent Shettle’s SMA life insurance policy. It is further found that again on June 19, 1996, the complainant made a written request, this time for the bills of the law firm from 1984 to the date of the request and also for the invoices paid on behalf of Mr. Shettle to the SMA Life Assurance Company and for a copy of the related policy.

3. It is found that respondent Shettle responded to the complainant’s June 12, 1996 request by letter dated June 17, 1996 and to the complainant’s June 19, 1996 request by letter dated June 25, 1996, each time stating that "all available and appropriate material to meet your request will be with Bonnie".

4. By letter dated and filed with the Commission on July 25, 1996, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act by denying her the right to inspect promptly bills for certain legal services and records relating to the SMA Life Assurance Company.

5. Section 1-19(a), G.S., states in pertinent 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….

6. It is found that on June 19, 1996, the complainant was allowed to inspect the law firm bills relating to a seven month period from September 1995 to April 1996, and that additional bills relating to the period back to 1984 were available for the complainant to inspect from June 24, 1996 to September 27, 1996.

7. It is found that there were no records in the possession of the respondents during the pertinent period relating to a SMA life insurance policy, and that in response to the complainant’s June 19, 1996 request, the respondent Shettle retrieved for inspection the invoices related to the SMA long term disability policy (not life insurance) and also a copy of the policy itself.

8. It is concluded that, while respondents would be well advised to adopt more user friendly procedures and to urge their staff to implement more user friendly responses with reference to requests to inspect public records, the respondents, under the facts of this case, did not violate the promptness requirements of 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 complaint is hereby dismissed.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 14, 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:

Elizabeth Allen
330 Walkley Hill Road
Haddam, CT 06438

Charles F. Sweetman, Jr. Superintendent of Schools, Regional School District #17, and Gary Shettle, Finance Director, Regional School District #17
c/o Kevin M. McGlinchey, Esq.
Shipman & Goodwin
One American Row
Hartford, CT 06103-2819

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission

FIC1996-455/FD/eal/05231997