In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
James J. Smith,
against Docket #FIC 1997-416
Town Clerk, Town of Union,
Respondents May 27, 1998
	The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 24, 1998, 
at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and 
presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  At the hearing on this 
matter, the parties and the undersigned hearing officer agreed to remove the Town of 
Union as a party respondent in this case.  The case-caption has therefore been amended to 
reflect this change.
	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.
	2.  On October 7, 1997, the complainant requested of the respondent town clerk a 
copy of the audio tape recordings of three town meetings.
	3.  The complainant was subsequently informed that the cost for providing the 
requested copy would be $240, the cost for a private vendor to produce the copy because 
the Town of Union did not have the equipment to make the requested copy.
	4.  On November 5, 1997, the complainant offered the use of his audio tape 
equipment to make the requested copy, which offer was rejected in a follow-up letter 
dated November 17, 1997 from the respondent town clerk.
	5.  By letter dated December 18, 1997, postmarked December 19, 1997, and filed on 
December 23, 1997, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the 
respondent town clerk had violated 1-15 and 1-19, G.S.
	6.  In essence, the complainant contends that the respondent has effectively denied 
him access to the requested copy by imposing unreasonable costs therefor, having refused 
to consider less costly alternatives for producing the requested copy.
	7.  The respondent contends that she did not violate 1-15 and 1-19, G.S., because 
she offered to provide the requested copy at the cost of reproduction by a private vendor 
and later offered to permit the complainant to play the subject tapes and make his own 
audio copies during the regular office hours of the respondent town clerk.  The 
respondent further contends that she would not be willing to hook another recorder up to 
the town’s machine in order to make the requested copies, as suggested by the 
complainant, because of her concern about the integrity of the tapes and fear that she 
would be subject to claims that she had altered the tapes.
	8.  Section 1-18a(5), G.S., defines public records as 
any recorded data or information relating to the conduct of the public's 
business prepared, owned, used, received or retained by a public agency, 
whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, 
printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.
	9.  Section 1-19(a), G.S., in relevant part, states:
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. 
	10.  It is found that the requested tapes are public records within the meaning 1-
18a(5) and 1-19(a), G.S.
	11.  Section 1-15, G.S., does not set forth the maximum fee that a public agency may 
charge for a copy of a public record recorded by audio tape.
	12.  The Commission notes that it has had extensive experience in providing copies of 
tapes of its own meetings and hearings. 
	13.  Based on its own technical experience, the commission takes administrative 
notice of the fact that the intended purpose of a tape of a meeting or hearing is to create a 
record that may be played, and playing the tape through output jacks connected to a 
recording device is no more likely to impair the integrity of the original tape or cause an 
alteration to the original tape than simply playing it through a device’s internal speakers.
	14.  Based on its own technical experience, the commission takes administrative 
notice of the fact that the cost of a dual cassette tape recorder that can make copies of 
tapes is less than $100.00.
	15.  Based on its own technical experience, the commission takes administrative 
notice of the fact that copies of tapes made on such low-cost cassette tape recorders, or 
made by connecting a second tape recorder to the output of a tape recorder, are of 
acceptable quality.
	16. Based upon its own experience, the Commission takes administrative notice that a 
copy of the requested tape recordings can be produced at substantially less than $240, 
without the need to engage a professional copying service, and, indeed, at a nominal cost.
	17.  It is found that the complainant at all times material to this complaint has been 
willing to provide his own tape recorder and cables to make a recording of the subject 
tapes, and that the cost of making such a recording therefore at a maximum would be the 
cost of the tape on which the copy is made.
	18.  It is concluded that, pursuant to 1-19(a), G.S., an agency may not have a rule 
that requires expensive copying methods over inexpensive ones, since such a rule 
“diminishes or curtails” the rights granted by 1-19(a), G.S., which include the rights 
granted by 1-15(a), G.S.
	19.  In keeping with the language of 1-15, G.S., and its intent, it is further concluded 
that the cost for a copy of a non-photocopy public record may not exceed the cost thereof 
to the public agency; and that a public agency may not charge a requester the amount 
equal to the cost to the agency of engaging an outside professional copying service unless 
such service is necessary or cost-effective in providing the copy as requested.
	20.  It is also found that the offer to permit the complainant to play the tape 
recordings in question and make his own audio copies does not comply with the 
complainant’s request for a copy of such tape recordings.
	21.  It is therefore concluded that the respondents violated 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., 
by failing to provide promptly to the complainant a copy of the requested tape recordings 
at a cost not to exceed the cost thereof to the respondents.
	The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of 
the record concerning the above-captioned complaint: 
	1.  The respondent town clerk shall forthwith provide the complainant with a copy of 
the requested audio tape recordings without any charge except for the cost of the audio 
tape itself.

	Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular 
meeting of May 27, 1998.

Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission
James J. Smith
106 Old Brown Road
Union, CT 06076
Town Clerk, Town of Union
1024 Buckley Highway
Union, CT 06076

Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission