FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

Final Decision
Docket # FIC 1996-309
June 25, 1997

In the Matter of a Complaint by John J. Finn, Complainant
against
Mark A. Lauretti, Mayor, City of Shelton; and Sandra M. Nesteriak, Administrative Assistant, City of Shelton, Respondents

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 25, 1996 and January 17, 1997, at which times the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. Docket # FIC 1996-232, John J. Finn v. Mark A. Lauretti, Mayor, City of Shelton; and Sandra M. Nesteriak Administrative Assistant, City of Shelton, was consolidated with the above-captioned matter for purpose of hearing.

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 of complaint dated August 2, 1996 and filed with the Commission on August 5, 1996, the complainant, an alderman on the city of Shelton Board of Aldermen, alleged that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by denying him copies of various records he requested on July 11, 13, 15 and 23, 1996 (hereinafter, "The July 11, 1996 Request", "The July 13, 1996 Request", "The July 15, 1996 Request" and "The July 23, 1996 Request"). In his August 2, 1996 complaint, the complainant requested that the Commission impose civil penalties upon the respondents.

The July 11, 1996 Request

3. It is found that by letter dated July 11, 1996, the complainant requested that the respondent mayor provide him with the following information pertaining to the advertising of the "part-time benefits position" (hereinafter "ad"):

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a. the newspaper the ad was placed in;

b. the dates the ad was published, and the length of time the ad appeared;

c. a copy of the ad as it was placed; and

d. the invoice for payment of the ad.

4. It is found that the respondent administrative assistant, by memorandum dated July 17, 1996, informed the complainant that the part time benefits position was not advertised.

5. It is found that no ad or ad records exist.

6. It is concluded that with respect to the July 11, 1996 Request, the respondent mayor did not violate 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S.

The July 13, 1996 Request

7. It is found that by letter dated July 13, 1996, the complainant requested that the respondent mayor provide him with copies of the following records pertaining to the hiring of the part time benefits coordinator (hereinafter "part time benefits coordinator" or "part time employee"):

a. the part time benefits coordinator’s job description;

b. the scope of work;

c. completed audit;

d. recommendations; and

e. problems uncovered.

8. With respect to the request for the job description, as described in paragraph 7a of the findings, above, it is found that the respondent administrative assistant, by memorandum dated July 23, 1996, provided the complainant with a copy of the job description for the position of Benefits Coordinator, and informed the complainant that the part time employee performs the duties of the Benefits Coordinator.

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9. It is also found that by memorandum dated August 14, 1996, the respondent administrative assistant informed the complainant that she had already provided him with the job description for Benefits Coordinator, described in paragraph 8 of the findings, above.

10. It is found that no other job description exists for the part time employee.

11. With respect to the request for the scope of work, as described in paragraph 7b of the findings, above, it is found that the respondent administrative assistant, by memorandum dated August 14, 1996, indicated the following to the complainant: "N/A"

12. It is found that "N/A" is unresponsive to the complainant’s request.

13. It is also found that no records responsive to the request for scope of work exist, and the respondent could have, and should have so informed the complainant.

14. With respect to the request for a completed audit, as described in paragraph 7c of the findings, above, it is found that the respondent administrative assistant by memorandum dated August 14, 1996 provided the complainant with a copy of the "Employee Benefit Report".

15. It is found that no records responsive to the request for a completed audit exist, except for the Employee Benefit Report provided to the complainant and described in paragraph 14, of the findings, above.

16. With respect to the request for recommendations and problems uncovered as described in paragraph 7d and 7e of the findings, above, it is found that the respondent administrative assistant, by memorandum dated August 14, 1996, provided the complainant with a copy of the July 11, 1996 Board of Aldermen (hereinafter "aldermen") meeting minutes.

17. It is found that no records responsive to the request for recommendations and problems uncovered exist, except for the minutes provided to the complainant and described in paragraph 16 of the findings, above.

18. It is concluded that with respect to the July 13, 1996 Request, the respondent mayor did not violate 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S. However, it is also concluded that in light of the complainant’s July 13, 1996 Request, the respondent administrative assistant’s August 14, 1996 responses, described in paragraphs 9, 11, 14 and 16 of the findings above, were not prompt.

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19. Finally, with respect to the July 13, 1996 Request, it is also found that the complainant, in such request, asked the respondent mayor to answer questions which he referred to as items 1, 7, 8 and 9. It is found that such questions do not constitute requests for records within the meaning of 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., and therefore, the respondent mayor did not violate the FOI Act when he failed to answer such questions.

The July 15, 1996 Request

20. It is found that by letter dated July 15, 1996, the complainant requested that the respondent administrative assistant provide him with a detailed accounting of all hours worked by the part time employee after the normal workday, on weekends and holidays, for numerous dates during the period January through July, 1996.

21. It is found that the respondent administrative assistant, by memorandum dated July 23, 1996, responded to the complainant’s request. However, it is found that such response is unresponsive and does not address whether a detailed accounting exists.

22. At the hearing on this matter, the respondent administrative assistant contended that she believed that certain time cards, which she had previously provided to the complainant, by memorandum dated July 11, 1996 in response to a prior request, complied with the complainant’s request for a detailed accounting. She further indicated at the hearing that no other accounting records exist.

23. It is found that the complainant’s request for a detailed accounting is different from his request for time cards, and that the respondent administrative assistant could have, and should have informed the complainant that all existing records responsive to his request for an accounting had already been provided.

24. However, with respect to the July 15, 1996 Request, it is concluded that the respondent administrative assistant did not violate 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., because no detailed accounting records responsive to the complainant’s request exist.

The July 23, 1996 Request

25. It is found that by letter dated July 23, 1996, the complainant requested that the respondent mayor provide him with copies of numerous records, including, all correspondence between the part time employee and any other city department for the period January 9, 1996 through July 1996; all documentation pertaining to the purchase of a computer for the benefit’s office; the names and positions of all city employees trained by "ADP", including, time cards showing the day and number of hours to be trained; copy of each month’s bill from Boston Mutual and Metropolitan Insurance and related materials, including, all correspondence between the city and Boston Mutual during the period January 1992 through July 1996; a copy of an insurance policy that had

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lapsed in December 1995 for non-payment; copies of all payments to Boston Mutual and Metropolitan Insurance, including, checks paid from January 1992 through July 1996; records of the time period payments to Boston Mutual and Metropolitan Insurance covered, from January 1992 through July 1996; copies of all refunds from Boston Mutual and "backup material" including, checks for the period January 1992 through July 1996; and records of all city insurance carriers, and "backup material" including, each person insured, coverage and cost to the city for the period January 1992 through July 1996.

26. It is found that the respondents and other city departments maintain records responsive to the July 23, 1996 Request, and such records are public records within the meaning of 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S.

27. It is also found that the respondent administrative assistant at a July 23, 1996 meeting of the Shelton Board of Finance ("Finance meeting") informed the complainant that he could inspect the records responsive to his request.

28. With respect to the request for correspondence, as described in paragraph 25 of the findings, above, it is found that the respondent administrative assistant, by memorandum dated August 15, 1996, provided the complainant with copies of the records that are responsive to such request.

29. With respect to the request for records pertaining to the purchase of a computer, as described in paragraph 25 of the findings, above, it is found that no records of aldermen authorization exist, and the existing records responsive to such request were provided to the complainant by the respondent administrative assistant by memorandum dated August 15, 1996.

30. With respect to the request for records explaining the program purchased, as described in paragraph 25 of the findings, above, it is found that the respondent administrative assistant, by memorandum dated August 15, 1996, provided the complainant with records responsive to his request and also repeated to him her July 23, 1996 offer that he inspect and copy whatever records he needs.

31. With respect to the request for records of employees trained, as described in paragraph 25 of the findings, above, it is found that no record exists that is responsive to such request, however, the respondent administrative assistant indicated at the hearing on this matter that she knew of two other employees in addition to the part time employee, trained by ADP, and she was willing to provide those names to the complainant.

32. With respect to the request for the insurance policy that lapsed as described in paragraph 25 of the findings, above, it is found that the respondent administrative assistant by memorandum dated August 15, 1996 provided such record to the

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complainant.

33. With respect to the request for copies of bills, payments, refunds and all city insurance carriers, as described in paragraph 25 of the findings, above, it is found that a voluminous amount of records exist, which the respondents are willing to make available to the complainant but which they have not photocopied and provided to the complainant.

34. The respondents contend that the records described in paragraph 33 of the findings, above, are too voluminous for their staff to photocopy and have estimated that such records are in excess of 3,000 pages and possibly as much as 16,000 pages, and would require the hiring of an employee to photocopy.

35. At the hearing on this matter, the respondents repeated their offer to the complainant to inspect and photocopy whatever records he desires.

36. Section 1-19(a), G.S., in relevant part, provides that "…[e]very person shall have the right to inspect such [public] records promptly during regular office or business hours or to receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15."

37. Section 1-15(a), G.S., in relevant part, provides that "[A]ny person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a…copy of any public record. The fee for any copy provided…shall not exceed fifty cents per page."

38. Section 1-15(c), G.S., in relevant part further provides that "[A] public agency may require prepayment of any fee required or permitted under this chapter if such fee is estimated to be ten dollars or more."

39. It is concluded that with respect to the records described in paragraph 33 of the findings, above, the respondents violated 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., when they failed to provide the complainant with a copy of the records maintained that are responsive to his request.

40. With respect to all of the issues raised in this complaint, it is also found that the apparent hostility and intolerance between the complainant and the respondents has led to a complete breakdown in their communication, dialogue and willingness to cooperate with each other.

41. It is concluded that the imposition of civil penalties would not be appropriate in this case.

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

1. The respondents shall forthwith permit the complainant to inspect the records described in paragraph 33 of the findings, above, and determine the records he wants copied.

2. In providing copies of records to the complainant, the respondents may require prepayment of any fees for such copies estimated to be ten dollars or more, in accordance with 1-15(c) G.S.

3. In the interest of the public whom they serve, the Commission encourages the complainant, the respondents and the Board of Aldermen to work toward improving their communication.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 25, 1997.

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission

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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:
John J. Finn
c/o John P. Basher, Esq.
80 Ferry Boulevard, Suite 216
Stratford, CT 06484

Mark A. Lauretti, Mayor, City of Shelton; and Sandra M. Nesteriak, Administrative Assistant, City of Shelton
c/o Ramon S. Sous, Esq.
Assistant Corporation Counsel
159 Main Street
Seymour, CT 06483

c/o William R. Connon, Esq.
Sullivan, Schoen, Campane & Connon
646 Prospect Avenue
Hartford, CT 06105

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC 1996-309/FD/eal/06301997