FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by

FINAL DECISION

Joel R. Anderson,

 

 

Complainants

 

 

against

 

Docket #FIC 1997-274

Assessor, Town of Old Saybrook,

 

 

Respondents

February 25, 1998

        The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 10, 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(1), G.S. (prior to October 1, 1997, 1-18a(a), G.S.).

        2. On or about July 21, 1997, the complainant made an oral request of the respondent for an electronic copy of the Old Saybrook 1996 Motor Vehicle Grand List ("grand list"), at which time the complainant was informed that an outside vendor, Quality Data Service, Inc. ("Quality"), was responsible for maintaining such list on behalf of the town.

        3. By letter dated July 21, 1997, the complainant requested that Quality provide him with a copy of the grand list free-of-charge based upon a claim of indigence.

        4. By letter dated July 24, 1997, the complainant requested that the respondent provide him with an electronic copy of the grand list free-of-charge, based upon his claim of indigence.

        5. By letter dated July 29, 1997, the respondent informed the complainant that his request had been referred to counsel.

        6. By letter dated August 11, 1997, the respondent informed the complainant that an "Application in Support of Indigency Request" ("application") was available at her office.

        7. By letter dated August 13, 1997, the complainant reiterated his request for the grand list in electronic form and his claim of indigence.

        8. By letter dated August 18, 1997, the complainant again requested an electronic copy of the grand list, claimed indigence, and objected to completing the application.

        9. By letter dated August 20, 1997, the respondent informed the complainant that Quality would charge the respondent the same $150.00 copying fee it had quoted to the complainant; that the paper version of the grand list was available for inspection free of charge; and that the respondent would review the complainant’s application if he completed it and submitted it to her.

        10. By letter dated August 22, 1997, and filed on August 25, 1997, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by refusing to provide a copy of the grand list to him free of charge, as mandated by 1-15(d), G.S., and by failing to comply with 1-15(f) and 1-19a(c), G.S.

        11. It is found that the requested record is a public record within the meaning of 1-18a(5) (prior to October 1, 1997, 1-18a(d)) and 1-19(a), G.S.

        12. Section 1-15(d), G.S., in relevant part provides that a public agency:

…shall waive any fee…when…the person requesting the records is an indigent individual…or…in its judgment, compliance with the applicant's request benefits the general welfare.

        13. It is found that a mere claim of indigence does not constitute proof of indigence and that an agency may reasonably inquire into a requester’s finances when a claim of indigence is made.

        14. It is further found that the application devised by the respondent is designed to fairly assess the requester’s ability to pay for copies of public records.

        15. It is further found that the complainant’s refusal to complete the application forestalled the respondent’s ability to evaluate his claim of indigence.

        16. It is further found that the complainant provided no evidence to prove that compliance with his request would benefit the general welfare, as also alleged in his complaint.

        17. It is therefore concluded that the respondent did not violate the provisions of 1-15(d), G.S., under the facts of this case.

        18. Section 1-15(f), G.S., in relevant part states:

[a]fter consultation with the chairman of the [FOI] Commission, a representative of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and a representative of the Council of Small Towns, the Secretary of the State shall propose a fee structure for copies of public records provided in accordance with the sections set forth in subsection (a) of this section, and submit such proposal to the general assembly not later than January 15, 1995.

        19. It is found that 1-15(f), G.S., does not impose any duties on the respondent.

        20. It is therefore concluded that the respondent did not violate the provisions of 1-15(f), G.S.

        21. Section 1-19a(c), G.S., in relevant part states:

[o]n and after July 1, 1992, before any public agency acquires any computer system, equipment or software to store or retrieve nonexempt public records, it shall consider whether such proposed system, equipment or software adequately provides for the rights of the public under the [FOI] Act at the least cost possible to the agency and to persons entitled to access to nonexempt public records under the [FOI] Act…

        22. It is found that the respondent has not acquired any computer system, equipment or software to store or retrieve nonexempt public records since 1990.

        23. It is therefore concluded that the respondent did not violate the provisions of 1-19a(c), 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.

        Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of February 25, 1998.

_________________________
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:
Joel R. Anderson,
13 George Drive
Old Saybrook, CT 06475-2636

Assessor, Town of Old Saybrook
c/o Atty. Jeremiah Donovan
P.O. Box 554
Old Saybrook, CT 06475

__________________________
Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1997-274/FD/tcg/02251998