FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Vito Cortese,
Complainants
against Docket #FIC 1998-254
Office of the Treasurer, Town of
East Windsor; and Town of East
Windsor,
Respondents January 13, 1999


        The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 3, 1998, 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 1-18a(1), G.S.

        2. It is found that, on August 20, 1998, the complainant visited the office of the respondent treasurer and requested access to records related to the amount of town funds spent on legal fees.

        3. It is found that the respondents thereupon asked the complainant to commit his request to writing, and that, after consulting with his attorney by telephone, the complainant refused to do so.

        4. It is further found that the complainant then left the premises and neither returned thereto nor further contacted the respondents with respect to his request.

        5. Rather, by letter dated August 20, 1998, and filed with the Commission on August 21, 1998, the complainant alleged that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information("FOI") Act by requiring that he commit his request to writing.

        6. It is found that, shortly after leaving the premises, the complainant contacted a local newspaper and that such newspaper, by letter dated and received by the respondents on August 21, 1998, requested access to the information described in paragraph 2, above.

        7. It is found that the respondents did not instantly provide the records as requested in paragraphs 2 and 6, above, because they wished to review such records to ensure that they did not contain information exempt from mandatory disclosure by virtue of the attorney-client privilege and 1-19(b)(10), G.S.

        8. It is further found that the respondent treasurer requested that the complainant provide a written request, as described in paragraph 3, above, so that she might contact him after review of the records in order to comply with his request.

        9. It is also found that, upon review, the respondents determined that the requested records did not contain exempt material and that, on August 21, 1998, the respondents provided the newspaper described in paragraph 6, above, with copies of such records. It is further found that, at such time, the respondents made a second copy of the records for the complainant but were unable to contact him because he had left no forwarding address or telephone number.

        10. At the hearing in this matter, the complainant testified that he no longer wished copies of the records.

        11. Section 1-19(a), G.S., in relevant part states:

[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…receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15….

        12. Section 1-15(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that:

[a]ny person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record. The fee for any copy provided in accordance with the freedom of information act…[for records provided by municipal] public agencies…shall not exceed fifty cents per page….

[Emphasis added].

        13. It is concluded that nothing in 1-19(a) and 1-15(a), G.S., requires that a request for inspection of public records be made in writing.

        14. It is therefore concluded that the respondents violated 1-19(a) and 1-15(a), G.S., by their actions in this matter.

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

Henceforth, the respondent shall comply with 1-19(a) and 1-15(a), G.S.

The Commission wishes to express its belief that the respondent treasurer did not intend to violate the Freedom of Information Act and acted in good faith under difficult circumstances.

 

 

        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:

 

Vito Cortese

c/o Atty. Robert M. Fitzgerald

1127 Tolland Turnpike

Manchester, CT 06040

Office of the Treasurer,

Town of East Windsor;

and Town of East Windsor

c/o Atty. Stephen T. Penny

Penny, Botticello, & Higgins, PC

202 West Center Street

Manchester, CT 06040

 

 

 

__________________________

Melanie R. Balfour

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC1998-254FD/mrb01201999