FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Holly J. Blinkoff and Quality Sand and Gravel,
Inc., D/B/A B&B Group,
Complainants
against Docket #FIC 1998-189
Comptroller, City of Torrington;
Purchasing Agent, Purchasing
Department, City of Torrington;
and City of Torrington,
Respondents January 13, 1999

       
        The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 2, 1998, at which time the complainants 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.

        It is found that by letters dated June 26, 1998, the complainants made two requests: the first to the respondent purchasing agent asking questions about the city of Torrington’s ("city") procedure for purchasing stone, gravel and asphalt and requesting a copy of the council minutes showing that the city’s competitive bid process was waived. The second request was directed to the respondent comptroller requesting copies of certain bills.

        It is also found that on June 26, 1998, complainant Blinkoff visited the city’s purchasing department and made an oral request to review certain files.

        By letter of complaint dated July 5, 1998 and filed on July 6, 1998, and supplemented by letter dated and filed July 8, 1998, the complainants appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by denying them access to the records described in paragraphs 2 and 3, above.

        By letter dated and filed with the Commission on August 31, 1998, the complainants withdrew their complaint as against the respondent comptroller. Consequently, only the allegations in the complaint as against the respondents purchasing agent and city will be addressed.

        With respect to the complainants’ request to the respondent purchasing agent as described in paragraph 2, above, it is found that by letter dated July 22, 1998, the respondent purchasing agent informed the complainants that she did not have a copy of the requested minutes and that she was not required to answer the complainants’ questions.

        It is found that the respondent purchasing agent does not maintain any minutes responsive to the complainants’ request nor is she aware of the existence of any such minutes.

        With respect to the complainants’ questions, it is found that nothing in the FOI Act requires that a public agency answer questions. However, the FOI Act obligates a public agency to provide prompt access to inspect or to receive copies of records that contain information responsive to a request.

        It is concluded that the respondent purchasing agent did not violate 1-19(a) and 1-15(a), G.S., when she failed to provide the complainants with minutes and when she did not answer the complainants’ questions, however, the respondent purchasing agent’s failure to respond to the complainants’ request for almost one month was not prompt, and unreasonable.

        With respect to complainant Blinkoff’s oral request, more fully described in paragraph 3, above, it is found that such request was made to the clerk of the purchasing department during the department’s regular office or business hours.

        It is found that the clerk of the purchasing department told complainant Blinkoff that she did not have the records she was seeking, that they probably were on the desk of the respondent purchasing agent, and that she would not search the desk of the respondent purchasing agent to obtain the records.

        It is found that a file containing records responsive to complainant Blinkoff’s request was on the respondent purchasing agent’s desk at the time of complainant Blinkoff’s visit. It is also found that the respondent purchasing agent was aware that complainant Blinkoff was in the purchasing department and wanted to review the file.

        Section 1-19(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that:

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 a 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.

        14. It is found that the respondent purchasing agent failed to prove that any federal or state law permitted the nondisclosure of the records contained in the file on her desk at the time of complainant Blinkoff’s visit and request.

        15. It is also found that on or about July 23, 1998 the respondent purchasing agent eventually provided the complainants with access to some of the records contained in the file.

        16. The respondent purchasing agent contends that the records not disclosed to the complainants on or about July 23, 1998 pertained to an investigation involving the police.

        17. It is found however, that the respondent purchasing agent failed to prove that any federal or state law permitted the nondisclosure of the records withheld and described in paragraph 16, above.

        18. It is therefore concluded that the respondent purchasing agent violated 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to provide the complainants with prompt access to inspect the records contained in the file and described in paragraph 12, above.

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

        1. The respondent purchasing agent shall forthwith provide the complainants with access to inspect or to receive a copy of all the records contained in the file described more fully in paragraph 12 of the findings, above, if such access has not already been provided.

        2. Henceforth, the respondent purchasing agent shall strictly comply with the disclosure requirements of 1-19(a), G.S.

 

        Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of January 13, 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:

 

Holly J. Blinkoff and

Quality Sand and Gravel,

Inc., D/B/A B&B Group

PO Box 1526

Torrington, CT 06790

Comptroller, City of

Torrington; Purchasing

Agent, Purchasing

Department, City of

Torrington; and City of

Torrington

c/o Atty. Martin A. Gould

Gould, Killian & Wynne

One Commercial Plaza

Hartford, CT 06103

 

 

 

 

__________________________

Melanie R. Balfour

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC1998-189FD/mrb01141999