FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Gail E. Sinclair,
Complainants
against Docket #FIC 1998-388
Patricia A. Mechare, Selectman,
Town of Canaan,
Respondents April 28, 1999

        The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 11, 1999, at which time the complainant and the respondent 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 respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(1), G.S.

        2. By a November 23, 1998 verbal request, and by letter dated the same day, the complainant requested that the Town of Canaan provide her with access to correspondence related to the Falls Village Kellogg Renovation (hereinafter "the renovation").

        3. By letter dated November 23, 1998, the first selectman of the Town of Canaan provided access to all renovation records dating from November 4, 1997, and informed the complainant that renovation records pre-dating November 4, 1997, which was the date the first selectman took office, were in the possession of the respondent. Such letter, which was copied to the respondent, requested that the respondent return the pre-November 4, 1997, renovation records to the town hall so that the complainant might review such records.

        4. By letter dated November 24, 1998, the respondent informed the complainant that the first selectman was incorrect in her statement that the respondent was in possession of pre-November 4, 1997 renovation records, as described in paragraph 3, above. Such letter further informed the complainant that any such pre-November 4, 1997 renovation records should have been in a file in the selectmen’s office, which the respondent believed the first selectman should have reviewed. By such letter, the respondent suggested that the complainant also contact the building committee in order to retrieve any renovation records in its possession.

        5. By letter dated November 30, 1998 addressed to the respondent, the complainant revised her request to include all records related to the renovation from its outset.

        6. By letter dated December 1, 1998, the respondent reiterated to the complainant that she was not in possession of original renovation records and that pre-November 4, 1997 renovation records should be located in a file cabinet in the selectmen’s office. By such letter, the respondent informed the complainant that her request should be directed to the first selectman for further searching and perhaps to other town agencies which may have records relative to the renovation.

        7. By letter dated December 9, 1998, the first selectman informed the complainant that the file of original records which she had inherited from the previous first selectman had been made available to the complainant at a prior visit by the complainant to town hall.

        8. By letter dated December 14, 1998, and filed with the Commission on December 22, 1998, the complainant alleged that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by maintaining renovation records outside town hall. The complainant requested the imposition of a civil penalty in this matter.

        9. It is found that the town’s previous first selectman had provided the respondent with his personal copies of various public records at the time he left office. It is further found that such copies were duplicates, and not original records of the town.

        10. It is further found that the respondent has never removed from town hall public records relating to the renovation.

        11. Therefore, it is concluded that the respondent did not violate the FOI Act, as alleged in the complaint.

 

        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.

        2. Although the complaint is dismissed, the Commission urges that, to the extent copies of public records supplement the public records available in town hall, such copies be made available to the public.

        3. In an effort to avoid costly and needless hearings at this Commission in the future, the respondent and the first selectman are strongly encouraged to communicate and cooperate when in receipt of a request for records, rather than engage in accusation and discord.

 

 

         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:

 

Gail E. Sinclair
76 Barnes Road
Falls Village, CT 06031
Patricia A. Mechare,
Selectman, Town of Canaan
c/o Atty. Judith Dixon
Dixon and Brooks, PC
45 Center Street
Winsted, CT 06098

 

__________________________

Melanie R. Balfour

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC1998-388FD/mrb04301999