FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
Docket #FIC 1996-563
June 25, 1997
In the Matter of a Complaint by Taconic Data Corporation,
Town Clerk, Town of Stonington, Respondent
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 6 and 12, 1997, at which times the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. Docket #s FIC 1996-330, Taconic Data Corporation v. Town Clerk, Town of Groton, FIC1996-341, Taconic Data Corporation v. Town Clerk, Town of Suffield, FIC1996-354, Taconic Data Corporation v. Town Clerk, Town of Ledyard, FIC1996-558, Taconic Data Corporation v. Town Clerk, Town of Bozrah, FIC1996-561, Taconic Data Corporation v. Town Clerk, Town of Griswold and FIC1996-564, Taconic Data Corporation v. Town Clerk, Town of Lisbon, were 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 respondent is a public agency within the meaning of § 1-18a(a), G.S.
2. It is found that by letter dated December 6, 1996, the complainant requested that the respondent provide it with an electronic copy of the grantor/grantee index for the period January 1, 1995 through June 30, 1996, inclusive ("requested record").
3. It is found that by letter dated December 12, 1996, the respondent agreed to provide the complainant with the requested record at a fee of $1.00 per page pursuant to § 7-34a(a), G.S.
4. The complainant appealed to the Commission by letter dated December 18, 1996 and filed on December 19, 1996, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by denying it a copy of the requested records. The complainant also requested that the Commission impose civil penalties against the respondent.
Docket #FIC 1996-563 Page 2
5. It is found that COTT Systems ("COTT"), an Ohio based company, contracts with many Connecticut towns, and provides land records computer indexing services to the town clerks of such towns, including the respondent.
6. Section 1-19a(b), G.S., provides:
Except as otherwise provided by state statute, no public agency shall enter into a contract with, or otherwise obligate itself to, any person if such contract or obligation impairs the right of the public under this chapter to inspect or copy the agency's nonexempt public records existing on-line in, or stored on a device or medium used in connection with, a computer system owned, leased or otherwise used by the agency in the course of its governmental functions.
7. It is found that the requested record constitutes nonexempt public records of the respondent within the meaning of § 1-19a(b), G.S.
8. It is found that the information contained in the requested record is maintained in paper format by the respondent and in electronic format by COTT.
9. It is concluded that the requested record is a public record within the meaning of § § 1-18a(d), 1-19(a) and 1-19a, G.S., and that no contract between the respondent and COTT can impair the complainants right to copy the respondents non-exempt public records existing on-line in, or stored on a device or medium used by the respondent in the course of its governmental functions.
10. The respondent contends that the requested record is not subject to the copying fee set forth in § 1-15(b), G.S., by virtue of § 1-19a(a), G.S., but rather it is subject to the copying fee set forth in § 7-34a(a), G.S.
11. Section 1-19a(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that:
Except as otherwise provided by state statute, the cost for providing a copy of such [non-exempt] data [maintained in a computer storage system] shall be in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15.
12. Section 7-34a(a), G.S., in turn, provides in relevant part that:
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Town clerks shall receive, for making a copy of any document either recorded or filed in their offices, one dollar for each page or fractional part thereof, as the case may be.
13. It is found that the requested record is an electronic copy of documents recorded or filed in the respondents office within the meaning of § 7-34a(a), G.S.
14. It is therefore, concluded that § 7-34a(a), G.S., by virtue of § 1-19a(a), G.S., is a state statute that supersedes the copying fee provisions set forth at § 1-15, G.S., and accordingly the respondent may charge a per page copying fee for the requested record.
15. It is further concluded that the respondent did not violate § § 1-15, 1-19(a) and 1-19a(a), G.S., when she failed to provide the complainant with a copy of the requested record at the copying fee set forth at § 1-15(b), G.S.
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. Nothing in this opinion shall be construed as suggesting that the Commission believes that the copying fee provided at § 7-34a(a), G.S., is an appropriate fee for a copy of land records in an electronic form. Given the nature of the requested record, and the circumstances surrounding this case, the Commission believes that this question is one that the legislature might want to consider.
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
Docket #FIC 1996-563 Page 4
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:
Taconic Data Corporation
c/o Stuart Bear, Esq.
Zeldes, Needle & Cooper
1000 Lafayette Boulevard
PO Box 1740
Bridgeport, CT 06601-1740
Town Clerk, Town of Stonington
c/o Thomas J. Londregan, Esq.
Conway & Londregan, PC
38 Huntington Street
PO Box 1351
New London, CT 06320
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission