FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|Holly J. Blinkoff and Quality Sand and Gravel,
Inc., D/B/A B&B Group,
|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 Torringtons ("city") procedure for purchasing stone, gravel and asphalt and requesting a copy of the council minutes showing that the citys 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 citys 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 agents failure to respond to the complainants request for almost one month was not prompt, and unreasonable.
With respect to complainant Blinkoffs 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 departments 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 Blinkoffs request was on the respondent purchasing agents desk at the time of complainant Blinkoffs 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 Blinkoffs 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
Department, City of
Torrington; and City of
c/o Atty. Martin A. Gould
Gould, Killian & Wynne
One Commercial Plaza
Hartford, CT 06103
Melanie R. Balfour
Acting Clerk of the Commission