FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

FINAL DECISION
Docket #FIC 1996-453
June 4, 1997

In the Matter of a Complaint by Russell J. Wilson, Complainant
against
Superintendent, State of Connecticut, Vocational-Technical School System, Assistant Superintendent, State of Connecticut, Vocational-Technical School System, Affirmative Action Administrator, State of Connecticut, Department of Education, Respondents

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 26, 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 Section 1-18a(a), G.S.

2. By letters dated January 22, 1996, March 20, 1996, and August 29, 1996, the complainant requested copies of correspondence "which has my name or reference to B.E.S.B. Education Consultant from the Voc Tech System to the Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (Complaint No. 01-95-1152) and any interdepartmental correspondence".

3. By letters dated February 9, 1996, February 22, 1996, February 29,1996, March 4, 1996, April 24, 1996, May 7, 1996, and September 5, 1996, the respondents acknowledged and responded to the complainant’s request. The respondents offered records in their letters of February 22, 1996 and April 24, 1996. The five records first offered on February 22, 1996 were mailed to the respondent on March 4, 1996, and the three records offered on April 24, 1996 were mailed to the respondent on May 7, 1996.

4. By letter dated September 20, 1996, and filed with the Commission on September 25, 1996, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act by denying the complainant records in the custody of the respondents and by using improper threats concerning the education of a special education student in order to attempt to intimidate the complainant into not pursuing his Freedom of Information requests.

5. It is found that the complainant was not able to introduce sufficient evidence to prove his serious allegation that an independent consultant to the respondents telephoned the complainant and the parents of a special education student, in order to state that the student’s program would be negatively impacted by the complainant’s Freedom of Information request.

6. It is found that the respondents initially required pre-payment for copying fees of less than ten dollars, in violation of 1-15(c), G.S., and charged the complainant fifty cents per page rather than the twenty-five cent per page maximum permitted for state agencies under 1-15(a), G.S.

7. It is found that the ambiguity of the complainant’s request, with reference to whether or not it was limited to records concerning Complaint No. 01-95-1152, was sufficient to mitigate the respondents delay in forwarding the last three records that were ultimately furnished on May 7, 1996.

8. The complainant contends that the respondents have relevant records in their custody which they are not producing. It is found that the respondents have performed a diligent search for any additional records in their custody that respond to the complainant’s request.

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

1. Henceforth, the respondents shall carefully administer proper copying charges and pre-payment thresholds, and most importantly, shall be careful to foster an environment that is user friendly to the requirements of state law concerning Freedom of Information. The remainder of the complaint is hereby dismissed.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 4, 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:

Russell J. Wilson
120 Cliffwood Street
Lenox, MA 01240

Superintendent, State of Connecticut, Vocational-Technical School System, Assistant Superintendent, State of Connecticut, Vocational-Technical School System, Affirmative Action Administrator, State of Connecticut, Department of Education
c/o Linsley J. Barbato, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
55 Elm Street
PO Box 120
Hartford, CT 06141-0120

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission

FIC 1996-453/FD/eal/06161997