FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

FINAL DECISION
Docket #FIC 1996-528
June 4, 1997

In the Matter of a Complaint by Charles Wright and Nancy J. Harper, Complainants
against
Robert Geary, Chairman, Eastern Point Historic District Commission, City of Groton; Mildred M. Carlson, Robert Hauptmann, Mary L. Johnson and Michael Boucher, as Members of the Eastern Point Historic District Commission, City of Groton, Respondents

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 9, 1997, at which time the complainants 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 named individual respondents as members of the Eastern Point Historic District Commission ("HDC") and in their official capacities as members of the HDC are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

2. By letter to the respondent chairman dated November 14, 1996, the complainant Wright requested to inspect certain records that were referred to at hearings of the HDC. In addition, the complainant Wright requested information concerning the operating expenses of the HDC.

3. By letter dated December 16, 1996 and filed December 19, 1996, the complainants appealed to the Commission alleging that although the respondents had provided the requested operating expense information in a reasonable amount of time, they had failed to provide access to the requested map and videotape. In addition, the complainants alleged that the respondents improperly cancel their scheduled meetings. However, at the hearing on this matter, the complainants withdrew their allegation concering meeting cancellations.

4. By letter dated January 6, 1997 the complainants requested the imposition of civil penalties against the respondents in connection with the complainants’ December 16, 1996 appeal.

5. It is found that during a November 7, 1996 public hearing concerning whether to widen a specific street in Groton, the respondent Boucher held up a map and stated that it was from 1894 and that it showed historic street widths less than twenty feet.

6. It is found that during an August 29, 1996 HDC meeting, at which time the complainants had an application pending before the HDC, the respondent Boucher stated that he had a videotape he would show to the other members of the HDC that showed the complainant’s roofline from the public way.

7. It is found that the map and videotape described in paragraphs 5 and 6, above, are the subjects of the complainants’ request.

8. Section 1-18a(d), G.S., defines public records as: "…any recorded data or information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, received or retained by a public agency, whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method."

9. Section 1-19(a), G.S., provides in pertinent part: "[e]xcept as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute … every person shall have the right to inspect such [public] records promptly…."

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

11. It is found that shortly after receiving the complainants’ November 14, 1996 request, the other named respondents directed respondent Boucher on several occasions to provide the complainants with access to the requested records but that respondent Boucher refused.

12. It is found that under cover letter dated January 21, 1997, the complainants were provided with a copy of a map from 1894 which the respondents had obtained independently from the city’s highway department and which the respondents believed to be responsive to the complainants’ request. The complainants maintain however, that they do not know whether the map provided is the map that was referred to by the respondent Boucher.

13. With respect to the requested videotape, the respondents maintain that the respondent Boucher, after refusing initially to provide the complainants with access to it, subsequently stated that he had taped-over the videotape.

14. It is found that the respondent Boucher, as the official who had control of the requested map and videotape, failed to provide prompt access to such records within the meaning of 1-19(a), G.S., and that he therefore violated the terms of that provision under the facts of this case.

15. It is further found that the violations described in paragraph 14, above, were without reasonable grounds.

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

1. Respondent Boucher shall forthwith provide the complainants with access to inspect the requested map and videotape. If the requested videotape has been destroyed or taped-over, the respondent Boucher shall provide the complainant with an affidavit stating that such tape has been destroyed or taped-over and the date on which such destruction or taping-over occurred.

2. Within forty-five days of the date of mailing the notice of final decision in this matter, the respondent Boucher shall remit to this Commission a civil penalty in the sum of one hundred and fifty dollars ($150.00).

3. The complaint is hereby dismissed against the named individual respondents, other than the respondent Boucher.

The Commission advises the respondent Boucher that the destruction of public records without appropriate approval is a criminal offense pursuant to 1-21k, G.S., and recommends that he consult with the state’s Public Records Administrator concerning the proper retention and destruction of public records.

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:

Charles Wright and Nancy J. Harper
c/o Charles Wright
164 Shore Avenue
Groton, CT 06340

Robert Geary, Chairman, Eastern Point Historic District Commission, City of Groton; Mildred M. Carlson, Robert Hauptmann, Mary L. Johnson and Michael Boucher, as Members of the Eastern Point Historic District Commission, City of Groton
c/o Peter S. Gianacoplos, Esq.
100 Fort Hill Road
PO Box 942
Groton, CT 06340-0942

Michael Boucher
16 Hillside Avenue
Groton, CT 06340

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC 1996-528/FD/eal/06161997