FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|against||Docket #FIC 1998-010|
|First Selectman, Town of
Engineer, Engineering Department, Town
of Guilford; Chairman, Tree Advisory Board,
Town of Guilford; and Town of Guilford,
|Respondents||June 10, 1998|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 10, 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.
2. It is found that, at an October 7, 1997 meeting of the respondent board, the respondent chairman stated that under state legislation a tree does not have to be removed unless it is determined to be a hazard by the local police department and that the Guilford Police Department had not made such a determination regarding a certain oak tree on Old Sachems Road in Guilford.
3. By letter dated November 3, 1997, the complainant requested that the respondent engineer provide him with a copy of the state legislation alluded to by the respondent chairman at the meeting described in paragraph 2, above, as well as the Guilford Police Departments reply to that effect. Additionally, the complainant requested that the respondent engineer provide him with the name and address of your general liabilities carrier. The complainant stated that neither the respondent towns insurance agent nor board of selectmen employees could provide him with the requested information regarding the insurance carrier.
4. By letters dated December 18, 1997 and December 30, 1997 addressed to the respondent engineer and copied to the respondent chairman, the complainant renewed his request, as described in paragraph 3, above.
5. By letter dated December 31, 1997, the respondent first selectman informed the complainant that all future requests should be directed to his attention, that the respondent engineer and others had provided the complainant with information related to the name and address of the towns insurance carrier, and that the respondent board had amply addressed his concerns regarding the tree described in paragraph 2, above.
6. By letter dated January 2, 1998, the complainant informed the respondent first selectman that he had not received the requested information relative to the towns insurance carrier in telephone conversations with the respondent towns insurance agent and board of selectmen employees. The complainant further informed the first selectman that the respondent chairman had not provided the information requested of her in the letters described in paragraph 4, above.
7. By letter dated January 10, 1998 and filed on January 13, 1998, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by denying him access to the requested information.
8. At the hearing in this matter, the complainant contended that reference to state legislation at a meeting of a public agency requires that such legislation be added to the minutes of such meeting. However, it is concluded that the FOI Act does not require such an action on the part of a public agency.
9. Section 1-19(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:
[e]xcept as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute, all records maintained 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 hours .
10. The FOI Act requires that public agencies provide access to non-exempt public records; however, it does not require that agencies perform research, answer questions or create records in response to requests.
11. It is found that the requests for state legislation described in paragraphs 3 and 4, above, amount to requests that the respondents perform research and/or answer questions. Therefore, it is concluded that the respondents did not violate the FOI Act by failing to provide the complainant with such information. It is noted, however, that, at the hearing in this matter, the respondents nevertheless agreed to cite the relevant legislation to the complainant. 12. It is further found that the complainants telephone calls in search of the name and address of the towns insurance carrier, as described in paragraph 6, above, and his letters described in paragraphs 3 and 4, above, were in essence requests that the respondents answer a question. Therefore, it is concluded that the respondents did not violate the FOI Act by failing to provide the complainant with such information. It is noted, however, that, at the hearing in this matter, the respondents nevertheless agreed to provide the complainant with the insurance carriers street address.
13. With respect to the police department reply sought by the complainant as described in paragraph 3, above, it is found that the only responsive record in existence is a November 4, 1996 memorandum from the respondent towns police chief to the respondent engineer. It is further found that the complainant was provided with a copy of such memorandum but he disputes the respondent chairmans characterization of it, which is not a matter within the purview of the Commission. Accordingly, it is concluded that the respondents did not violate the FOI Act with respect to the issue of the requested reply.
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 concluded that the respondents did not violate the FOI Act in this matter, it observes that providing assistance to the public can in many instances avoid the need for hearings at this Commission, and the respondents are urged to provide such assistance in the future.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 10, 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:
August Iacobellis 56 Arrowhead Drive Guilford, CT 06437
First Selectman, Town of Guilford; Town Engineer, Engineering Department, Town of Guilford; Chairman, Tree Advisory Board, Town of Guilford; and Town of Guilford c/o Atty. Charles R. Andres 205 Church Street P.O. Box 1936 New Haven, CT 06509
__________________________ Doris V. Luetjen Acting Clerk of the Commission