In the Matter of a Complaint by


Robert M. Ward,






Docket #FIC 2000-186

Secretary of the State, State of Connecticut,




 March 28, 2001





The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 30, 2000, 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 §1-200(1), G.S.


2.   It is found that the House of Representatives of the Connecticut General Assembly was scheduled to take action on a particular campaign finance reform bill during the afternoon of April 17, 2000.  For the purpose of debating certain issues raised by the bill, the complainant wanted to obtain the campaign finance statements that were required to be filed with the respondent office by April 13, 2000. 


            3.   It is found that on the morning of April 17, 2000, the complainant’s research assistant attempted to inspect and/or download copies of a total of either 12 or 14 campaign finance statements which were required to be filed with the respondent office on April 13, 2000 (hereinafter “the requested statements”) from the respondent’s web site.


4.      It is found that after having failed to find any of the statements on the respondent’s web site, the complainant’s research assistant telephoned the respondent’s office and after explaining why the complainant wanted the statements, inquired about access to the statements.  It is found that the complainant’s research assistant was told that the statements were being archived and would not be available until that process was completed.


5.      It is found that subsequent to the telephone conversation described in paragraph 4, above, the complainant sent another staff member to the respondent’s office to request the statements.


6.      It is found that the second staff member searched for some of the statements using one of the respondent’s computer terminals and after failing to find them, requested assistance from a clerk of the respondent’s office.  It is found that after the clerk was unsuccessful in her search on the computer, she sought help from another co-worker who apparently told her that the statements were not presently available because they were in the process of being scanned for posting on the respondent’s web site.  It is found that the clerk relayed that information to the complainant’s staff member.


7.      By letter dated and filed on April 17, 2000, the complainant appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to promptly provide the requested statements.  The complainant requested that the Commission order the respondent to:


a.       require the submission of two copies of the campaign finance statements upon the filing of such statements with the respondent;

b.      require her employees make another copy of the statement prior to scanning;

c.       require her employees to make a good faith effort to locate the hard copy of the statement during the scanning process when requested or to transfer the responsibility of acceptance and storage of the statements to the Connecticut Elections Enforcement Commission;

d.      declare the practice of “denying access” to the statements during the scanning process invalid; and

e.        to void the respondent’s contract with the vendor.


8.      Section 1-210(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 section 1-212. 


9.      Section 1-212(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 . . . .”


10.  It is found that the requested statements are public records within the meaning of §1-210(a), G.S. 


11.  At the hearing on this matter, the respondent claimed that because the complainant failed to put his request for the statements in writing, the respondent was not obligated to respond to the complainant’s request.


12.  It is found that while the complainant did not put his request for the requested statements in writing, the respondent waived her right to require a written request by failing to ask for one at the time the complainant made his oral request.  Therefore, the lack of a written request does not negate the complainant’s right to receive promptly upon request a copy of the requested statements.


13.  It is found that the filing deadline for the requested statements was April 13, 2000 and that timely filed statements included those that were postmarked by midnight of that date.  It is found that between April 13 and 14, 2000, the respondent received over 500 statements and expected more. 


14.  It is found that pursuant to §9-348(ee), G.S., “Computerization of Campaign Finance Statements and Data,” the respondent has contracted with a vendor, which vendor scans and posts all campaign finance statements on the respondent’s web site and that the following process for those tasks has been adopted:


a.       campaign finance statements are received in the office of the respondent’s elections division;

b.      upon receipt, the statements are date stamped as received and reviewed to ensure that all pertinent information has been included;

c.       all statements are grouped according to when they are received, however they are not put into any other particular order, and are sent to the employees of the vendor who scan the statements into the computer system;

d.      all statements received by the vendor are scanned and posted on the respondent’s web site within 48 hours of receipt by the vendor and all statements are posted the same day they are scanned;

e.       the vendor produces an index of all statements scanned and posted which allows the respondent’s elections division to determine which statements were timely filed and which were not;

f.        the statements are returned to the respondent’s elections division and are filed appropriately. 


15.  It is found that while the statements are available on line for public inspection shortly after they are scanned into the computer system, the paper copies of the statements are not available for copying or inspection until they are returned to the respondent’s elections division by the vendor.


16.  It is found that the paper copies of the requested statements were not available for inspection at the time of the complainant’s request because they had not been returned to the respondent’s elections division at that time.


17.  It is also found, however, that five (5) of the requested statements were available on line at least by 3:30 p.m. on April 17, 2000 and that six (6) of the requested statements had not yet been received by the respondent on April 17, 2000.  


18.  The complainant contends that pursuant to §9-333j, G.S., the requested statements are public records at the time they are received by the respondent and as such, they should have been available immediately upon request. The complainant also contends that the scanning process used by the respondent impairs the public’s right to prompt access to the statements in violation of the FOI Act. 


19.  The respondent contends that §9-348(ee,ff,gg), G.S., mandates that campaign finance statements be made available electronically and that the respondent has selected the most efficient method to comply with that particular mandate and all other statutory requirements pertaining to the filing, retention and disclosure of the statements.  The respondent further contends that the process, while still in a pilot phase, does not unduly delay access to the statements but rather provides “quick access for the public at large.”   


20.  The Commission has previously opined that the word “promptly” in §1-210, G.S., means “quickly and without undue delay, taking into account all of the factors presented by a particular request . . . [including] the volume of statements requested; the amount of personnel time necessary to comply with the request; the time by which the requester needs the information contained in the statements; the time constraints under which the agency must complete its other work; the importance of the records to the requester, if ascertainable; and the importance to the public of completing the other agency business without loss of the personnel time involved in complying with the request.”  FOI Commission Advisory Opinion #51, January 11, 1982.  The Commission also recommended in Advisory Opinion #51 that if immediate compliance is not possible, the agency should explain the circumstances to the requester.


21.  Regarding the time by which the complainant needed the requested statements, it is found that under the circumstances, it would likely have taken at least an hour to find just one of the 12 -14 requested statements, provided such statements were even in the custody of the respondent.   Therefore, the complainant could not have been provided access to the requested statements any sooner had the scanning process been interrupted and a manual search conducted to find the requested statements.


22.  Regarding the importance of the records to the complainant, it is found that while the complainant certainly had a compelling reason for accessing the requested statements, he did not initiate his request until the actual day such information was needed. 


23.  It is also found that conducting a manual search for the requested statements would have stopped the scanning process for an indefinite period of time, thereby delaying the official record of when statements were filed, and preventing the respondent from carrying out other obligations related to the filing of the statements, such as assessing penalties against late filers.


24.  It is further found that there is no evidence in the record to support a finding in this case that the process used by the respondent for making campaign finance statements available on the web unduly delays access to the statements. 


25.  It is therefore concluded that under the facts and circumstances of this case, the respondent did not violate the promptness provisions of §1-210(a), G.S.


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.      In light of the serious problem experienced by the complainant in this case, the Commission urges the respondent to consider reviewing the procedure followed in the receipt of campaign finance statements to determine whether they can speed up their release.


Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 28, 2001.



Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission





Robert M. Ward

c/o Michael Cronin, Esq.

Legislative Office Building, Rm. 4200

Capitol Avenue

Hartford, CT 06106


Secretary of the State,

State of Connecticut

c/o Michael T. Kozik, Esq.

Office of the Secretary of the State

30 Trinity Street

Hartford, CT 06106




Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission