FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Gary S. Levine,
Complainants
against Docket #FIC 1999-094
Louis J. Fusaro, Sr., Chief, Police Department,
City of Norwich; William G. Tallman, City Manager,
City of Norwich; and Konstant Morell, Corporation Counsel,
City of Norwich,
Respondents July 28, 1999

        The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 23, 1999, 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 1-200(1), G.S. [formerly 1-18a(1), G.S.]

        2. By letter dated January 28, 1999, the complainant requested that the respondent chief provide copies of all current Norwich Police Department (hereinafter "NPD") manuals, protocols, procedures and practices pertaining to the behavior and conduct of police officers. By such letter, the complainant also asked that the records be provided at the NPD’s expense, since the complainant was on disability.

        3. By letter dated February 2, 1999, the respondent chief informed the complainant that a copy of the NPD Manual would be provided to him at a fee of $158.00, 316 pages at a rate of 50 cents per page, and that "disability" does not equate to "indigency". The respondent chief indicated that, if the complainant had other information suggesting he was an indigent individual, the chief would consider such information.

        4. By letter dated February 4, 1999, the complainant provided the chief with two facts allegedly in support of his claim of indigence and asked that the chief provide his "criteria for establishing your guidelines for indigency" (hereinafter "the standards").

        5. By letter dated February 5, 1999, the complainant reiterated his request for a copy of the manual and his belief that he was indigent. The complainant acknowledged that the respondent chief had informed him that there are no published standards and stated his belief that the chief should establish such standards.

        6. It is found that the respondent chief and the complainant thereafter exchanged several other letters, many of which detailed the respondent chief’s offers to provide the manual for the complainant’s inspection at no cost, and the complainant’s rejection of such offers.

        7. By letter dated February 23, 1999, the complainant asked the respondent chief for documents relating to the cost of producing the manual and again asked for the standards.

        8. By letter dated February 25, 1999, the respondent chief informed the complainant that no documents exist relating to the cost of producing the manual.

        9. By letter dated February 26, 1999, the respondent chief again informed the complainant that he did not maintain a study or analysis of the cost to the NPD of assessing a 50 cent per copy fee, included a blank "Application in Support of Indigency Request" form, and invited the complainant to complete such form and return it to him.

        10. By letter dated March 1, 1999, and filed with the Commission March 2, 1999, the complainant alleged that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to provide him with the standards. The complainant requested the imposition of civil penalties.

        11. It is found that, to the extent that the standards exist, they are public records within the meaning of 1-200(5)[formerly 1-18a(5)] and 1-210(a)[formerly 1-19(a)], G.S.

        12. Section 1-200(5), G.S. [formerly 1-18a(5), G.S.] defines "public records" to mean:

…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.

 

        13. Section 1-210(a), G.S. [formerly 1-19(a), G.S.], provides in relevant part:

[e]xcept 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…

        14. It is found that, prior to the events leading up to this complaint, as described above, the NPD had routinely referred requesters who sought indigent status to the Norwich Department of Social Services (hereinafter "NDSS"), which department would make the determination of indigence.

        15. It is further found that the complainant’s actions in this matter prompted the NPD to reevaluate the system described in paragraph 14, above, and to change its policy so that the NPD would provide requesters with the form described in paragraph 9, above.

        16. It is found that, at the time of the request described in paragraph 4, above, the respondent chief did not maintain or keep the standards on file.

        17. It is found that, at the time of the request described in paragraph 7, above, the respondent chief did not maintain or keep the standards on file, per se. However, it is also found that, at such time, the NPD had decided to use both the Black’s Law Dictionary definition of indigence and the poverty level criteria utilized by the NDSS when making determinations of indigence, and that the respondent chief had access to such dictionary and NDSS criteria.

        18. Therefore, it is concluded that the respondent chief violated the provisions of 1-210(a), G.S. [formerly 1-19(a), G.S.], by failing to provide the complainant with a copy of the definition and criteria described in paragraph 17, above.

        19. It is found that the complainant did not provide sufficient evidence to sustain the complaint against the respondent manager and the respondent counsel.

        20. The Commission declines to impose a civil penalty.

 

        The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:

        1. The complaint against the respondent manager and the respondent counsel

is hereby dismissed.

        2. The respondent chief shall forthwith provide the complainant with a copy of the dictionary definition and NDSS criteria described in paragraph 17 of the findings, above.

        3. The Commission shall not consider the findings and conclusions in this matter as the basis for imposing a civil penalty in this or any prospective complaint against the respondent chief.

 

 

        Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of

July 28, 1999.

 

 

_________________________

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:

 

Gary S. Levine
108 Washington Street, Unit 201
Norwich, CT 06360-4327
Louis J. Fusaro, Sr.,
Chief, Police Department,
City of Norwich; William G. Tallman,
City Manager, City of Norwich; and
Konstant Morell, Corporation Counsel,
City of Norwich
c/o Atty. Ralph Bergman
60 Chelsea Harbor Drive
Norwich, CT 06360
  

 

  

 

__________________________

Melanie R. Balfour

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC1999-094FD/mrb/08031999