FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

FINAL DECISION
Docket #FIC 1996-525
June 4, 1997

In the Matter of a Complaint by William E. Wildin, Complainant
against
Arthur J. Peitler, Mayor, Town of New Milford; Patrick Maguire, Administrative Aide to the Mayor, Town of New Milford; and Thomas Beecher, Town Attorney, Town of New Milford, Respondents

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 5, 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. By letter dated, transmitted by facsimile and hand-delivered on September 23, 1996 to the respondent Mayor, the complainant requested to inspect:

a. all communications between the mayor and town council to or from the town attorney and his law firm, from January 1, 1996 to the date of the request;

b. all legal opinions received from the town attorney and his law firm, from January 1, 1996 to the date of the request; and

c. all invoices received from the town attorney and his law firm, from January 1, 1996 to the date of the request.

3. By letter dated September 30, 1996, the respondent town attorney offered the complainant the opportunity to inspect the records described at paragraph 2c, above. With reference to the records described at paragraphs 2a and 2b, above, the respondent town attorney asked the complainant to make a more specific request, thereby, in effect, declining to make such records available as a whole. However, on October 3, 1996, the respondents furnished copies of the records described at paragraph 2b, above, to the complainant.

4. By letter dated October 2, 1996, and filed on October 4, 1996, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to make available for inspection the records described at paragraph 2a, above, and also requested that the Commission reopen an earlier complaint dated July 16, 1996 and docketed as #FIC 1996-252.

5. Because there has been no showing of changed conditions to support the request to reopen Docket # FIC 1996-252, the request is denied.

6. The respondents contend that the release of the Town of New Milford (the "town") received from the complainant dated November 20, 1996, bars the instant complaint to the Commission. It is found, however, that a request for public records is beyond the scope of said release and concluded that parties cannot contract to exempt themselves from the rights afforded by state law.

7. It is found that the respondent Maguire, a senior official of the town, spent approximately one and a half to two hours per work day from May 1996 to November 1996 coordinating the response to approximately seventy-four individual record requests of the complainant.

8. It is found that the records described at paragraph 2a, above, would be located in at least fifty, and perhaps over a hundred, different files organized on a subject matter basis.

9. It is, therefore, concluded that the September 23, 1996 records request was a request requiring research, to which there is no right under the Freedom of Information Act.

10. Consequently, it is concluded that the respondents did not violate the Freedom of Information Act with respect to the complainant’s September 23, 1996 request.

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.

2. The Commission notes that the respondents’ performance in the matters here at issue was generally outstanding. Voluminous records were provided to the complainant in an organized, professional manner, under circumstances where a claim was pending and where the sheer volume of the requests would have tried the patience of any public official who also carried responsibility for a variety of other assignments.

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:

William E. Wildin
445 Candlewood Lake Road North
New Milford, CT 06776

Arthur J. Peitler, Mayor, Town of New Milford; Patrick Maguire, Administrative Aide to the Mayor, Town of New Milford; and Thomas Beecher, Town Attorney, Town of  New Milford
c/o Francis J. Collins, Esq.
148 Deer Hill Avenue
PO Box 440
Danbury, CT 06810

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC 1996-525/FD/eal/06161997