FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Edward A. Peruta and the American
News and Information Services Inc.,
Complainants
against Docket #FIC 1998-278
Walter J. Kupchunos, Jr., Sheriff
of Hartford County; and County
Sheriffs Advisory Board/ County
Sheriffs Agency,
Respondents April 28, 1999

         The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 20, 1998, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. The case caption has been amended to reflect the correct titles of the respondents.

        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 1-200(a), G.S. [formerly 1-18a(1), G.S.]

        2. On September 8, 1998, the complainant went to the office of the respondent sheriff located on Lafayette Street in Hartford, Connecticut, at which time he made a written request for access to certain payroll and personnel records.

        3. It is found that, at the time of the request described in paragraph 2, above, the complainant was told by an employee of the respondent sheriff that his request would be reviewed to determine whether exemptions to disclosure under the Freedom of Information (hereinafter "FOI") Act applied.

        4. It is also found that, upon being informed that access would be delayed, as described in paragraph 3, above, the complainant then requested access to those records to which no exemption applied.

        5. It is further found that the respondent sheriff’s employee then informed the complainant that he would not receive any records at the time of the request described in paragraph 2, above.

        6. By letter dated September 11, 1998, the complainant received a response from the administrative director of the respondent board/agency indicating that his request for access was being reviewed to determine the appropriateness of release and the availability of the requested records and informing him that the determination would be made in seven days.

        7. It is found that the respondent board/agency serves as the administrative arm for all county sheriffs and is located at 84 Wadsworth Street in Hartford, Connecticut.

        8. By letter dated and filed on September 14, 1998, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that he had been denied prompt access to public records at and by the office of the respondent sheriff. The complainant requested the imposition of civil penalties.

        9. Section 1-210(a), G.S. [formerly 1-19(a), G.S.], provides in relevant part:

[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 . . . .

        10. It is found that the requested records are public records within the definition of 1-200(5), G.S. [formerly 1-18a(5), G.S.]

        11. It is also found that by letter dated September 15, 1998 the administrative director of the respondent board/agency informed the complainant that the requested records were available for his review.

        12. At the hearing in this matter, the complainant argued that he had sought access to the requested records from the office of the respondent sheriff and not from the office of the respondent board/agency. He further argued that the respondent sheriff, as the person to whom the request was made, should have responded to him, and compliance should have come from the respondent sheriff directly.

        13. It is found that the originals of the requested records are maintained at the office of the respondent board/agency.

        14. It is also found, however, that the respondent sheriff failed to prove that his office did not have copies of the requested records at the time of the request described in paragraph 2, above, or that he could not obtain such records from the respondent board/agency.

        15. It is therefore concluded that the respondent sheriff violated 1-210(a), G.S. [formerly 1-19(a), G.S.], by failing to provide prompt access to the requested records.

        16. At the hearing in this matter, the complainant also alleged that the administrative director of the respondent board/agency violated the FOI Act by requiring the complainant to make an appointment to review the requested documents.

        17. It is found, however, that the allegation described in paragraph 16, above, was not raised in the complaint and therefore will not be addressed in this decision.

        18. The Commission declines to impose a civil penalty in this matter.

        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 with respect to the respondent board/agency.

        2. Henceforth, the respondent sheriff shall strictly comply with the provisions of 1-210(a), G.S. [formerly 1-19(a), G.S.]

        3. The Commission believes that this complaint could have been avoided had the respondent sheriff understood his responsibility under the FOI Act to have an employee knowledgeable of such act available during regular business hours, as well as his responsibility to ensure that public records are available for inspection during such hours. The respondent sheriff should also understand that when a request for records over which he has control or custody is made, it is unacceptable to merely refer the requester to another agency.

 

         Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of April 28, 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:

 

Edward A. Peruta
and the American
News and Information
Services Inc.
38 Parish Road
Rocky Hill, CT 06067
Walter J. Kupchunos, Jr.,
Sheriff of Hartford County;
and County Sheriffs Advisory
Board/ County Sheriffs Agency
c/o Atty. Ann E. Lynch
Assistant Attorney General
110 Sherman Street
Hartford, CT 06105
and
c/o Atty. Lynn D. Wittenbrink
Assistant Attorney General
110 Sherman Street
Hartford, CT 06105

 

 

 

__________________________

Melanie R. Balfour

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC1998-278RFD/mrb05041999