FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by

FINAL DECISION

James J. Connolly,

 

 

Complainants

 

 

against

 

Docket #FIC 1997-397

Mayor, City of Hartford and City of Hartford,

 

 

Respondents

April 8, 1998

        The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 17, 1998, at which time the complainant and the 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(1) G.S. (prior to October 1, 1997, 1-18a(a) G.S.).

        2. By letter dated November 10, 1997 addressed to the respondent mayor, the complainant requested all phone logs, meeting minutes, and any other records related to the decision made by the respondent city to remove the Irish flag from the site of the Bobby Sands Memorial in the south end of Hartford, as well as all complaints received by the respondent city concerning this matter, and all other records related to the respondent city’s decision to remove the Irish flag from the Bobby Sands Memorial.

        3. Having failed to receive access to the requested records, as described in paragraph 2 of the findings, above, the complainant appealed to the Commission by letter dated December 7, 1997, and filed with the Commission on December 9, 1997.

        4. It is found that an Irish flag was displayed at the Bobby Sands Memorial as of May 4, 1997, but was removed by July 15, 1997 by employees of the respondent city.

        5. The respondents do not claim that the requested records are exempt from disclosure. Rather, they claim that they have conducted a diligent search for the requested records and have concluded that no such records exist.

    6. It is found that a senior assistant corporation counsel for the respondent city caused to be instituted a timely search for the records responsive to the complainant’s request, which search was conducted by appropriate officials and employees in various government departments and offices of the respondent city.

        7. It is also found that all of the officials involved in the search described in paragraph 6 of the findings, above, reported to the senior assistant corporation counsel that none of the requested records could be located.

        8. It is further found, however, that several officials of the respondent city indicated to the complainant and others that a considerable number of complaints had been received objecting to displaying the Irish flag at the Bobby Sands Memorial.

        9. It is further found that the complainant had sent a letter to the respondent mayor on July 30, 1997 requesting access to records concerning the Irish flag at the Bobby Sands Memorial, and that the complainant received no indication the letter was not received.

        10. The complainant contends that there should be records responsive to his request, in particular records concerning the complaints received, the decision to remove the Irish flag and his July 30, 1997 letter, and that if any such records were not retained or were destroyed, such action would be in violation of the state laws governing the retention and destruction of public records.

        11. It is found that while the complainant’s contentions as described in paragraph 10 of the findings, above, could be true, there is insufficient evidence to establish that the requested records were either removed or destroyed by the respondents, their agents or employees.

    12. It is also found that jurisdiction over the retention or destruction of public records in this case does not rest with this Commission, but rather with the State Public Records Administrator and the applicable State’s Attorney, as provided by state statute.

        13. It is therefore concluded that the complainant failed to prove that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act in this case.

        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. Although the Commission is constrained by the facts and law to dismiss this complaint, the Commission believes that the complainant has raised significant concerns concerning the retention and destruction of public records. Therefore, the Commission urges the respondents to review their procedures for the retention and destruction of such records, and in this regard consult with the State Public Records Administrator.

        Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of April 8, 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:
James J. Connolly
75 Westmont Drive
Middletown, CT 06457

Mayor, City of Hartford; and City of Hartford
c/o Evans Jacobs, Jr.
Sr. Asst. Corp. Counsel
Office of the Corporation Counsel
550 Main Street
Hartford, CT 06103

__________________________
Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1997-397/FD/tcg/04171998