FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
Evan Goodenow and The New Haven Register,
|against||Docket #FIC 1998-108|
Town of Wallingford; and Chief,
Wallingford Police Department, Town of
|Respondents||August 12, 1998|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 20, 1998, at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. The Division of Criminal Justice requested, and was granted, intervenor status at the hearing.
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. By letter dated April 21, 1998, the complainants requested that the respondent comptroller provide them with access to all motor vehicle grand list supplements for the years 1993 to 1996.
3. By letter dated April 23, 1998, the respondent comptroller provided access to so much of the records as were in his offices, but denied access to any requested records which had been removed from his offices by the Wallingford Police Department on the grounds that such records were exempt from disclosure pursuant to §1-19(b)(3)(C), G.S.
4. By letter dated and filed April 27, 1998, the complainants appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by denying them access to the outstanding requested records.
5. Section 1-19(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that [e]xcept as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute, all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency 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 .
6. It is found that the records at issue were seized in March, 1998 pursuant to §54-36a(b), G.S., by the respondent department at the direction of the intervening division.
7. It is further found that, at the time of the complainants request, the respondent comptroller did not maintain or keep the records at issue within the meaning of §1-19(a), G.S., and it is therefore concluded that the respondent comptroller did not violate such provision by failing to provide the complainants with such records.
8. The intervening division contends that the records at issue are not public records since such records are in its custody as part of an ongoing investigation.
9. It is found that the records at issue were seized at the direction of the intervening division for use in its investigation of a criminal complaint filed with such division.
10. Section 1-19c, G.S., provides that the intervening division shall not be deemed to be a public agency except in respect to its administrative functions for the purposes of the FOI Act.
11. It is found that the records at issue do not relate to the administrative functions of the intervening division and it is therefore concluded that the Commission has no authority to order the release of such records under the facts and circumstances of this case. Accordingly, it is further concluded that the respondent department did not violate §1-19(a), G.S., by failing to provide the complainants with such records.
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. The Commission notes that the requested records, portions of motor vehicle grand lists, are typically available for public inspection in every other context, and that such records are an important monitoring resource and a tool in commerce. The Commission further notes that, unless the original lists were needed for forensic evidence, the intervening division might have accomplished its investigative goals by simply copying the original lists and leaving the original lists with the comptroller. The Commission urges the intervening division to consider such an alternative in the future before seizing public records, depriving the public of the right to know, and in some cases interfering with the conduct of commerce.
3. The Commission further urges the intervening division to provide the complainants with a copy of the requested records.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of August 12, 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:
Evan Goodenow and The New Haven Register 174 Center Street Wallingford, CT 06492
Comptroller, Department of Finance, Town of Wallingford; and Chief, Wallingford Police Department, Town of Wallingford c/o Atty. Janis M. Small Town Attorney Town of Wallingford 45 South Main Street Wallingford, CT 06492
Division of Criminal Justice c/o Atty. Timothy J. Sugrue Executive Assistant States Attorney Office of the Chief States Attorney 300 Corporate Place Rocky Hill, CT 06067
__________________________ Doris V. Luetjen Acting Clerk of the Commission