FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Michael F. Showah,
Complainants
against Docket #FIC 1998-246
Director, Office of Planning and Economic
Development, City of Bridgeport; Office of
Planning and Economic Development, City
of Bridgeport; Zoning Enforcement Officer,
Zoning Office, City of Bridgeport; and
Zoning Office, City of Bridgeport,
Respondents March 24, 1999

        The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 14, 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. By letter dated August 17, 1998, to the respondent office of planning and economic development, the complainant requested the following:

a. copies of transcripts and tape recordings of the public hearings held on June 2, 1998, June 29, 1998, July 27, 1998 and August 10, 1998;

b. a copy of the original application and supporting documents, as well as the original report of Mr. Minor, regarding property located near the Inwood Apartments;

c. copies of revised applications and supporting documents regarding property located near the Inwood Apartments;

d. a list of the names and addresses of zoning board members and the names and addresses of those city officials present at the public hearings listed above;

e. the names of board members who voted on application number 98-38;

f. a complete and accurate transcript and copy of the tape recording of the discussion process before and after the vote on application number 98-38 at the August 10, 1998, hearing of the zoning board of appeals;

g. a copy of the new zoning regulations; and

h. a copy of the old zoning regulations.

        3. By letter dated August 19, 1998, the respondent office of planning and economic development responded to the complainant’s request and informed him that his request was forwarded to the city attorney and zoning office for response.

        4. By letter dated August 25, 1998, and filed on August 25, 1998, the complainant appealed to this Commission alleging that at the time of the filing of his complaint, he had not received the requested records or any other communications from the respondents.

        5. At the hearing in this matter, the complainant maintained that he had received copies of all the records requested except:

a. copies of the most recently published zoning regulations; and

b. a complete transcript and tape recording of the discussion before and after the vote on zoning application number 98-38, which took place at the August 10, 1998, zoning board of appeals hearing.

The complainant argued that the delay in complying with his request was deliberate and that the respondents should be ordered to attend a FOI workshop and that the maximum civil penalties should be imposed.

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

[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 during regular office or business hours or to receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of 1-15.

7. Section 1-15(a) 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 . . . If any copy provided in accordance with said Freedom of Information Act requires a transcription, or if any person applies for a transcription of a public record, the fee for such transcription shall not exceed the cost thereof to the public agency.

        8. It is found that the records described in paragraphs 2 and 5, above, are public records within the meaning of 1-18(a) and 1-19(a), G.S.

        9. It is found that the records described in paragraphs 2 and 5, above, are not maintained by the respondent director of the office of planning and economic development, or by the respondent office of planning and economic development.

        10. It is found that the complainant received a copy of the transcript of the hearing of August 10, 1998, on December 4, 1998, which was included in the respondent’s answer and return of record filed in a civil suit brought by the complainant against the Planning and Zoning Commission of the City of Bridgeport.

        11. At the hearing in this matter, the complainant argued that the transcript described in paragraph 10, above, is not a complete and accurate transcription because the transcript does not include the deliberations which took place at the hearing of August 10, 1998.

        12. It is found that the transcript was transcribed from the tape recording of the August 10, 1998, hearing during which the tape recorder was turned off after the evidentiary portion of the hearing concluded and during the deliberation period.

        13. It is found that the discussion the complainant seeks was not on the tape recording and therefore was not transcribed.

        14. It is further found that the transcript described in paragraph 10, above, is a complete and accurate transcription of the hearing of August 10, 1998.

        15. With respect to the complainant’s request for a copy of the new zoning regulations, it is found that the complainant received a copy of that record on or about November 5, 1998, after such record was printed.

        16. With respect to the complainant’s request for a copy of the old zoning regulations, it is found that the complainant received a copy of that record on or about October 5, 1998.

        17. It is found that there was no justifiable reason for the respondents’ delay in complying with the complainant’s request for a copy of the old zoning regulations.

        18. It is found therefore that the respondent zoning enforcement officer and the respondent zoning office violated 1-19(a) and 1-15(a), G.S., for failing to promptly comply with the complainant’s request for a copy of the old zoning records.

        19. With regard to the remaining documents, it is found that the respondent zoning enforcement officer and the respondent zoning office complied with the complainant’s requests in a timely manner and without undue delay.

        20. The Commission declines to impose a civil penalty against the respondents.

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

        1. The complaint is hereby dismissed as against the Director of the Office of Planning and Economic Development, City of Bridgeport and as against the Office of Planning and Economic Development, City of Bridgeport.

        2. Henceforth, the respondent zoning enforcement officer and the respondent zoning office shall strictly comply with the promptness provisions of 1-19(a) and 1-15(a), G.S.

 

        Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 24, 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:

 

Michael F. Showah
3000 Park Avenue
Bridgeport, CT 06604-1105
Director, Office of Planning and
Economic Development, City of
Bridgeport; Office of Planning
and Economic Development, City
of Bridgeport; Zoning Enforcement
Officer, Zoning Office, City of
Bridgeport; and Zoning Office,
City of Bridgeport
c/o Atty. John H. Barton
Office of the City Attorney
1087 Broad Street
Bridgeport, CT 06604
 

 

 

__________________________

Melanie R. Balfour

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC1998-246FD/mrb03251999