FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|against||Docket #FIC 1998-303|
|Mayor, Town of Hamden; and
Town of Hamden
|Respondents||February 10, 1999|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 15, 1998 at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. For purpose of hearing contested case docket #FIC1998-316, Floyd Atchley v. Mayor, Town of Hamden, was consolidated with the above captioned matter.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:
1. The respondent mayor is a public agency within the meaning of § 1-18a(1), G.S.
2. It is found that by letter dated September 2, 1998, the complainants requested that the respondent mayor provide them with copies of records pertaining to retired town of Hamden ("town") police chief John P. Ambrogios retirement package, specifically including, but not limited to the following:
i) correspondence between the town and the chief about his retirement benefits;
ii) records used to calculate the chiefs annual pension payments, including years of service, military service and supernumerary service;
iii) the towns Personnel Policy dealing with non-union employees and town department heads;
iv) the latest town and police union contract;
v) records of the chiefs accrued vacation and sick time at the time of his retirement;
vi) any agreements between the town and the chief regarding the accrued vacation and sick time during his career; and
vii) any records on how payments will be made, including a line item account from the town budget.
3. It is found that by letter dated September 10, 1998, the town attorney denied the request indicating that "there are no records relating to retired Hamden Police Chief John P. Ambrogios retirement package."
4. It is found that by letter dated September 15, 1998, the complainants again requested records concerning the chiefs retirement benefits, specifically:
i) the total figure of the annual pension payment the chief will receive after his retirement, effective August 31;
ii) the total figure of the one time payment to be paid or already paid to the chief for his accumulated sick and vacation leave; and
iii) all records on how the town will pay for the chiefs retirement payments, including line item accounts from the town budget.
5. It is found that by letter dated September 25, 1998, the town attorney informed the complainants that "I am in the process of researching the legal issues raised by your request. I will conduct my research as expeditiously as possible and forward a written response to you."
6. Having failed to receive the requested records, the complainants, by letter dated September 25, 1998 and filed with the Commission on October 5, 1998, appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent mayor violated the Freedom of Information Act by denying them copies of the requested records.
7. It is found that the respondents on October 28, November 12 and December 3, 1998 provided the complainants with all the records responsive to the complainants requests.
8. Section 1-18a(5), G.S., provides that: "[p]ublic 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.
9. Section 1-19(a), G.S., further provides 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 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.
10. It is concluded that the records provided to the complainants and described in paragraph 7, above, are public records within the meaning of § § 1-18a(5) and 1-19(a), G.S.
11. It is also found that the records provided to the complainants and described in paragraph 7, were not provided to the complainant promptly within the meaning of § 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S.
12. It is therefore, concluded that the respondents violated § § 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., when they failed to provide the complainants with the requested records promptly.
13. At the hearing on this matter, the complainants questioned the accuracy of the respondents September 10, 1998 response, described in paragraph 3, which indicated that there are no records relating to chief Ambrogios retirement package.
14. It is found that at best the September 10, 1998 response was misleading. The respondents contend that because they did not have any records which they labeled or termed "retirement package" records, such response was appropriate with respect to the complainants September 2, 1998 request.
15. It is found however, that the records eventually provided to the complainants by the respondents, as described in paragraph 7, above, were responsive to both the complainants September 2 and September 15, 1998 requests.
16. It is also found that the violation described in paragraph 12, above, appears to have been without reasonable grounds. At the hearing on this matter, the respondents offered no explanation for the delay in providing the complainants with the requested records.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint.
1. Henceforth, the respondents shall strictly comply with § § 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S.
2. The Commission takes this opportunity to inform the respondents that future violations of § § 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., without reasonable grounds, could lead to the imposition of civil penalties of up to $1000.00 per official found to be directly responsible, within the meaning of § 1-21i(b)(2), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of February 10, 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:
Gladys Alcedo and the
New Haven Register
40 Sargent Drive
New Haven, CT 06511-5918
Mayor, Town of Hamden;
and Town of Hamden
c/o Atty. Joshua A. Winnick
Hamden Town Attorney
2372 Whitney Avenue
Hamden, CT 06518
Melanie R. Balfour
Acting Clerk of the Commission