FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

FINAL DECISION
Docket #FIC 1996-590
July 9, 1997

In the Matter of a Complaint by Marc Mittaud, Complainant
against
Peter Lawson, First Selectman, Town of Canaan Respondent

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 22, 1997, at which time the complainant and the respondent 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 respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

By letter dated November 19, 1996, the complainant requested that the respondent provide him with copies of all documents in his files pertaining to "Town of Canaan v. Washburn, and the subsequent sale of that Washburn property to Richard Bunce Jr."

On November 22, 1996, the complainant went to town hall and obtained from the town clerk a packet of records responsive to his request that were left for him by the respondent. The respondent charged the complainant $26.02 for the records, which the complainant paid on that date.

4. By letter dated December 6, 1996 and filed December 18, 1996, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by (a) charging him an excessive amount for the copies provided and (b) failing to provide him with copies of all of the records maintained by the respondent responsive to his request. In addition, the complainant requested the imposition of a civil penalty against the respondent.

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

6. With respect to the complainant’s claim described in paragraph 4(a), above, 1-15(b), G.S., provides that "[t]he fee for any copy [of a public record] provided [by a municipal agency] … shall not exceed fifty cents per page."

7. It is found that in addition to charging the complainant twenty-five cents per page for the requested copies, the respondent originally charged the complainant $16.00 for his time spent photocopying the requested records and $2.52 for the certified mail cost to send the complainant an inventory of the records that were provided. However, the respondent refunded $18.52 to the complainant prior to the hearing in this matter and conceded that the charges for postage and labor were not permitted under the FOI Act.

8. It is found that 1-15(b), G.S., does not permit a public agency to charge for labor and mail costs and it is therefore concluded that the respondent violated the terms of that provision under the facts of this case.

9. With respect to the complainant’s claim described in paragraph 4(b), above, that the respondent failed to provide him with all of the requested records responsive to his request, the complainant maintains that the fact that he located certain additional records from other agencies pertaining to the subject property that the respondent should have in his files, evidences that the respondent has not provided him with all of the records maintained by him.

10. It is found however that after receiving the complainant’s request, the respondent located the requested file, photocopied its entire contents and provided the copies to the complainant.

11. Because the respondent provided the complainant with the entire contents of the requested file in his possession and custody, it is concluded therefore that the respondent did not violate the FOI Act with respect to the complainant’s claim described in paragraph 4(b), above.

12. It is further found that this Commission lacks jurisdiction to consider whether the respondent has failed to properly retain records in his files.

13. The Commission declines to consider the imposition of civil penalties under the facts of this case.

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

Henceforth, the respondent shall strictly comply with the provisions of 1-15(b), G.S., with respect to the fees charged for copies of public records.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of July 9, 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:
Marc Mittaud
43 Dublin Road
Falls Village, CT 06031

Peter Lawson, First Selectman, Town of Canaan
c/o Judith Dixon, Esq.
Dixon & Brooks, PC
45 Center Street
Winsted, CT 06098

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC 1996-590/FD/eal/07231997