FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

FINAL DECISION
Docket #FIC 1997-117
November 12, 1997

In the Matter of a Complaint by Karen Howard, Complainant
against
Superintendent of Schools, North Stonington Public Schools; and Board of Education, Town of North Stonington,  Respondents

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 4, 1997, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

2. By letter dated March 1, 1997, the complainant requested that the respondents provide to her a copy of "the full, detailed budget as approved by the Board of Education for the 1997-1998 school year" (the "requested record").

3. By letter dated March 10, 1997, the respondents stated their willingness to provide a copy of the requested record upon their receipt of $13.00 in pre-payment of the copying charge.

4. By letter dated March 31, 1997, and filed on April 3, 1997, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to provide promptly a copy of the requested record.

5. Section 1-19(a), G.S., provides in pertinent part:

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 receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15.

6. Section 1-15(a), G.S., in turn, provides in pertinent part that:

(a)ny person applying in writing shall receive, promptly, upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record.

7. It is found that the March 1, 1997 request letter described at paragraph 2, above, was ambiguous, in that it did not specify whether the requested record was the twenty-six page budget "approved by the Board of Education", or the "full, detailed budget" set forth in the level three worksheets prepared by the respondents to show every account and sub-account.

8. It is found that on March 10, 1997 the Chairman of the Board of Finance, Town of North Stonington, ("Board of Finance") telephoned the respondent superintendent on behalf of the complainant’s request, informing the respondent superintendent that time was of the essence because the complainant would be attending the March 12, 1997 meeting of the Board of Finance.

9. It is found that, after receiving the respondents’ March 10, 1997 letter described at paragraph 3, above, the complainant on March 11, 1997 made an in person visit to the offices of the respondents in order to pay for and receive the requested records.

10. It is found that, upon determining that the record offered by the respondents was not the record which the complainant sought, the complainant encountered an administrative assistant to the respondents in the hallway shortly before the office closing time. At this time, using hand gestures in part, the complainant specified for the first time that she was seeking a copy of the level three worksheets showing every account and sub-account.

11. It is found that on the morning of March 12, 1997 the respondent superintendent spoke to the administrative assistant concerning his telephone conversation on March 10, 1997 with the Chairman of the Board of Finance.

12. It is found that also on March 12, 1997 the administrative assistant to the respondents telephoned the complainant at her home and left a message requesting a clarification of the complainant’s request. The complainant returned the telephone call at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on March 12, 1997, finding the administrative assistant not in the office on either occasion and gone for the day at 3 p.m.

13. It is found that on March 13, 1997, the day after the March 12, 1997 meeting of the Board of Finance, the level three worksheets showing every account and sub-account were available to the complainant for inspection and purchase.

14. It is therefore concluded that the respondents violated 1-19(a) and 15(a), G.S., by failing to make the requested records available promptly on March 12, 1997 before the meeting of the Board of Finance that evening.

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

1. Henceforth the respondents shall make public records available upon request promptly.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of November 12, 1997.

_________________________
Doris V. Luetjen
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:
Karen Howard
17 Putter Road
North Stonington, CT 06359

Superintendent of Schools, North Stonington Public Schools; and Board of Education, Town of North Stonington
c/o Robert J. Murphy
Sullivan, Schoen, Campane and Connon
646 Prospect Avenue
Hartford, CT 06105

__________________________
Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1997-117/FD/tcg/11121997