FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by

FINAL DECISION

Joseph Belliveau,  

Complainant

 

against

Docket #FIC 1996-616

Supervisor, Records Department, Vernon Police Department, and Vernon Police Department,  

Respondents

August 13, 1997

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 23, 1997, at which time the complainant and 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 Commission takes administrative notice of the final decision in contested case docket #FIC 1996-241, Joseph Belliveau v. Vernon Police Department.

2. The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

3. By letter of complaint dated December 28, 1996 and filed on December 31, 1996, the complainant alleged that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by denying him prompt access to inspect records.

4. It is found that at approximately 2:10 p.m. on December 27, 1996, the complainant visited the Vernon police records department, to inspect and copy records from case file #94-196 (hereinafter "requested records").

5. It is found that at the time of the complainant’s visit, he was informed by the respondent supervisor that the file was available but that he would have to make an appointment and return at a later date to inspect it and to obtain copies of records.

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

Docket #FIC 1996-616 Page 2

7. Section 1-19(a), G.S., in relevant part provides that:

Except as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute, all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency, whether or not such records are required by any law or by any rule or regulation, shall be public records and every person shall have the right to inspect such 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. Any agency rule or regulation, or part thereof, that conflicts with the provisions of this subsection or diminishes or curtails in any way the rights granted by this subsection shall be void.

8. The respondents contend that it would have taken a substantial amount of time for the complainant to inspect the subject file which is approximately two inches thick, and that because the respondent supervisor was scheduled to leave at 3:00 p.m. and the records clerk at 4:00 p.m., there would not have been sufficient time to allow the complainant to inspect the file that day. They further contend that the complainant’s and the respondent department’s needs can be best served if the complainant makes an appointment to inspect and obtain copies of records.

9. The complainant on the other hand, contends that the respondent department’s posted business hours for that day was until 5:00 p.m.; that it would have taken him ten to fifteen minutes to inspect the file; that he offered to return on another day to pick up any copies of records requested that could not be made that day; and that instead of allowing him to inspect the file, the respondents spent almost an hour insisting that he make an appointment.

10. It is found that under the facts and circumstances of this case the respondents denied the complainant the right to inspect the requested records promptly.

11. It is therefore, concluded that the respondents violated 1-19(a), G.S.

12. At the hearing on this matter, the complainant requested that the Commission impose civil penalties upon the respondents. The Commission, in its discretion, declines to do so.

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

Docket #FIC 1996-616 Page 3

Henceforth, the respondents shall strictly comply with the promptness requirement of 1-19(a), G.S.

The Commission wishes to advise the respondent that further violations in the future may result in the imposition of civil penalties up to $1,000.00.

The respondent shall cause a copy of the final decision and order in this matter to be posted at the police department and town hall for a period of thirty days.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of August 13, 1997.

__________________________
Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission

Docket #FIC1996-616 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:
Joseph Belliveau
P.O. Box 462
Ellington, CT 06029

Supervisor, Records Department Vernon Police Department; and Vernon Police Department
c/o Lieutenant Michael E. Greenier and Beth Stefanik
725 Hartford Turnpike
Vernon, CT 06066

__________________________
Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission
fic1996-616/FD/tcg/08221997