FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|Scott Clark, Amy Kertesz
the Ridgefield Police Union,
|against||Docket #FIC 1998-111|
Personnel Director, Town
of Ridgefield; Jay Wahlberg, Controller,
Town of Ridgefield; John Mannuzza,
Assistant Controller, Town of Ridgefield; and
the Town of Ridgefield
|Respondents||November 18, 1998|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 11 and September 28, 1998 at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared 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 the complainants, by letter dated February 9, 1998 requested that respondent Hofmann, provide them with:
a. a list of all nonunion town employees who have received compensation beyond salaries, such as compensation for meritorious performance or bonuses and the amount paid to each such employee for the fiscal years 1994, 1995, 1996 and paid, or to be paid in 1997; andb. the performance or other criteria used to determine which town employees were eligible for meritorious performance or bonuses for the years specified in a) above.
3. It is found that by letter dated February 10, 1998, respondent Hoffman informed the complainants that such a list would be a part of the towns payroll records and the Finance Director, Jay Wahlberg, has requested that you contact him directly.
4. It is found that the complainants, by letter dated February 16, 1998, then made a request to respondent Wahlberg for the records described in paragraph 2, above.
5. It is found that respondent Wahlberg, by letter dated February 20, 1998, acknowledged receipt of the request, and advised the complainants that information regarding the criteria used to determine additional compensation is available from payroll records and that they could seek such information by making an appointment with the Assistant Town Controller, John Mannuzza. Respondent Wahlbergs February 20, 1998 letter did not address the complainants request for a list of town employees, as described in paragraph 2a, above.
6. It is found that by letter dated February 26, 1998, the complainants then made a third request for the records described in paragraph 2, above, this time directing their request to respondent Mannuzza.
7. It is found that by letter dated March 3, 1998, respondent Wahlberg acknowledged receipt of the request, and advised them that the list requested is not a report that our department normally prepares in its day to day activities. To generate a report of this type would require departmental personnel additional time to perform research and analytical procedures necessary to provide the required listing and data. Wahlberg again invited them to make an appointment to see respondent Mannuzza.
8. It is found that on April 17, 1998, the complainants visited respondent Mannuzzas office, at which time they were provided with a work station, and given a box of records to search through. The complainants were also directed to certain filing cabinets in order for them to search for the requested records. The complainants were also told that additional records were possibly being stored on microfilm.
9. By letter of complaint dated April 18, 1998 and filed with the Commission on April 27, 1998, the complainants appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act by denying them access to the requested records.
10. Section 1-18a(5), G.S., provides:
"Public records or files" means 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.
11. Section 1-19(a), G.S., further provides, in relevant part:
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.
12. It is found that the respondents maintained records responsive to the complainants request. Specifically, the respondents maintained a November 14, 1996 memorandum from Hofmann to Bivona, a June 11, 1997 memorandum from former First Selectman Sue Manning to Hofmann and a January 13, 1998 memorandum from Hofmann to Matthews.
13. It is found that the respondents do not maintain any records responsive to the complainants request for criteria used to determine bonuses as described in paragraph 2b, above.
14. It is concluded that the memoranda described in paragraph 12, above, are public records within the meaning of §§1-18a(5) and 1-19(a), G.S.
15. It is concluded that the respondents failed to promptly provide the complainants with a copy of the memoranda described in paragraph 12, above, and consequently violated §§1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S.
16. It is found that the violation, described in paragraph 15, above, was without reasonable grounds.
17. It also found that the officials directly responsible for the violation, described in paragraph 15, above, are respondents Hofmann and Wahlberg. Respondent Hofmann indicated at the September 28, 1998 hearing that although she had records that were responsive to the complainants request she withheld such records because she felt they contained inaccurate information. It is also found that contrary to respondent Wahlbergs explanation in his March 3, 1998 response to the complainant, no research was required in order to provide the complainants with the memoranda described in finding 12, above. At minimum, the respondents, could have and should have searched their records to locate the memoranda.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. Forthwith, respondents Hofmann and Wahlberg shall each remit to this Commission a civil penalty in the amount of $25.00.
2. The Commission notes that respondents Hofmann and Wahlberg engaged in a pattern of delay that frustrated the complainants and effectively denied them meaningful and prompt access to public records.
3. Henceforth, the respondents shall strictly comply with the disclosure requirements of §§1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S.
4. With respect to the complainants request for criteria used to determine meritorious performance or bonuses, the complaint is dismissed.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of November 18, 1998.
_________________________ Melanie R. Balfour 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:
Scott Clark, Amy Kertesz and the Ridgefield Police Union c/o Atty. Susan E. Craig 61 Lee Road Ridgefield, CT 06877
Jeanne Hofmann, Personnel Director, Town of Ridgefield; Jay Wahlberg, Controller, Town of Ridgefield; John Mannuzza, Assistant Controller, Town of Ridgefield; and the Town of Ridgefield c/o Atty. Allen Kerr, Jr. Office of the Town Attorney 400 Main Street Ridgefield, CT 06877 and Jeanne Hofmann 400 Main Street Ridgefield, CT 06877 and Jay Wahlberh 400 Main Street Ridgefield, CT 06877 and John Mannuzza 400 Main Street Ridgefield, CT 06877
__________________________ Melanie R. Balfour Acting Clerk of the Commission