FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

FINAL DECISION
Docket #FIC 1996-440
June 11, 1997

In the Matter of a Complaint by Thomas Wells, Complainant
against
Director of Health, Health Department, Town of East Hampton Respondent

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 29, 1997, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. The caption has been amended and restated to conform with the proper name of the Health Department.

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 Section 1-18a(a), G.S.

2. It is found that, on Friday, September 6, 1996, during regular business hours, the complainant made an in-person visit to the offices of the respondent, at which time both the respondent and his secretary were out of the office. Accordingly, the complainant directed his oral request to inspect certain records of the respondent to Ms. Carol Micek. The records requested included field sheets, data sheets and laboratory reports of the testing program for Lake Pocotopaug (the "records").

3. It is also found, however, that Ms. Micek was an employee of the Building, Zoning and Planning Department, working in the same room at the town offices that is also occupied by the respondent. Ms. Micek, who was not an employee under the supervision of the respondent, told the complainant during his September 6, 1996 visit that she did not know where the requested records were located.

4. It is found that Ms. Micek reported her conversation with the complainant to the respondent when he returned to the office, although it is also noted that various circumstances may have led the respondent to have some uncertainty or misunderstanding concerning the exact nature of the request.

5. It is found that, on September 16, 1996, the complainant wrote a letter to the Town Manager of the Town of East Hampton (the "Town Manager"), reiterating his earlier request to inspect the records.

6. By letter dated September 29, 1996, and filed with the Commission on October 2, 1996, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information Act by denying his right to inspect the records.

7. It is found that, thereafter on October 1, 1996, the Town Manager wrote a letter to the complainant offering the complainant the opportunity to inspect and receive copies of the records.

8. Section 1-19(a), G.S., provides in relevant 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 business or office hours….[Emphasis added]

9. It is also found that the respondent took no action based upon the request which was related to him by Ms. Micek, as found at paragraph 4, above. The respondent had possession of the records and he was the public official with the line responsibility to respond to the request to inspect the records.

10. It is concluded that the respondent’s inaction following the complainant’s September 6, 1996 visit to the respondent’s office, found at paragraph 9, above, resulted in a denial of the right to inspect the records for over three weeks from September 6, 1996 until the complainant’s receipt of the Town Manager’s October 1, 1996 letter. This denial of the right to inspect public records promptly constitutes a technical violation 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. Henceforth, the respondent shall strictly comply with the requirements of 1-19(a), G.S., including the right to prompt inspection of public records.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 11, 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:

Thomas Wells
42 North Main Street
East Hampton, CT 06424

Director of Health, Health Department, Town of East Hampton
c/o Richard W. Tomc, Esq.
Richard W. Tomc & Associates, PC
49 Main Street
Middletown, CT 06457

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC 1996-440/FD/eal/06231997