In the Matter of a Complaint by


Michael A. Zizka and
Town of Coventry,






Docket #FIC 2000-391

Manager of State Design,
State of Connecticut, Department
of Transportation, Bureau of
Engineering and Highway
Operations; and State of
Connecticut, Department of




May 23, 2001





The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on August 18, 2000, at which time the complainants 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 §1-200(1), G.S.


2.      By letter dated May 26, 2000, the complainant Zizka, on behalf of his client, the Town of Coventry, made a request to the respondent department to inspect and receive copies of “all documents that analyze, review, comment on, or otherwise refer to or deal with any safety improvements that were, are, or may be anticipated as a result of changes made by, or under the direction or control of, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (“DOT”) on or along that portion of U.S. Route 6 within the towns of Bolton, Coventry, Andover, and Columbia, Connecticut.”


3.      By letter dated June 2, 2000, the respondents responded to the complainant Zizka’s May 26, 2000 request and informed him that the records responsive to his request date back over 15 years and that compliance with his request would unduly burden the resources of the respondent department.  The respondents suggested that the complainant Zizka narrow the scope of his request or make arrangements to inspect the records and select specific records for copying.  


4.      By letter dated June 7, 2000 to the respondent manager, the complainant Zizka attempted to narrow the scope of the request by requesting “safety analyses.”  The complainant Zizka explained that responsive records should include “any projections, assumptions, data or conclusions with respect to the manner, extent and degree by which safety of the road for drivers was expected or determined to be enhanced by the road improvements or alterations.”


5.      By letter dated June 22, 2000 to the complainant Zizka, the respondent manager again informed him that it would be unduly burdensome for the respondent department to search for records responsive to his request because the respondent department does not maintain a single file containing the requested records and because there may be numerous records that would be responsive to the complainant Zizka’s broad definition of “safety analyses” generated over the last 15 years.


6.      By letter dated July 20, 2000 and filed on July 24, 2000, the complainants appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to comply with their request.


7.      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 receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-212.  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.


8.      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 . . . .”


9.      It is found that the requested records, to the extent they exist, are public records within the meaning of §1-210(a), G.S.


10.  At the hearing on this matter, the respondents claimed that compliance with the complainants’ request requires research, which they are not obligated to do under the FOI Act.  The respondents also claimed that the complainants’ request is overly broad and does not specifically identify the records sought, requiring the respondents to analyze the records and to exercise discretion as to whether the records fall within the complainants’ request.


11.  The complainants contend that the requested records are readily identifiable from the request and that the request does not require the respondents to exercise any discretion in order to comply with it.  The complainants contend that the request simply requires the respondents to conduct a search for the records.


12.  It is found that the respondent department has undertaken at least twenty projects to improve Route 6 within the past ten years and that all of the improvements to Route 6 are primarily undertaken to either increase safety or to add capacity to the highway. 


13.  It is found that the respondents maintain records pertaining to improvements to Route 6 in several different divisions and units of the respondent department according to the nature and requirements of the project.


14.  It is found that each division or unit maintains their files differently according to business needs.


15.  It is found that none of the divisions or units of respondent department maintain a separate file entitled “safety analyses” because the department believes it has no business purpose for maintaining such a file.


16.  It is found that in order to comply with the complainants’ request, the respondents would have to identify records that contain specific requested information that is not readily identifiable from the reasonably organized records of the respondent and as such constitutes research.


17.  It is also found that on or about August 17, 2000, the complainant Zizka inspected a file pertaining to a certain project undertaken by the respondent department to improve Route 6 and found a document entitled “Route 6 Safety Improvements Columbia Project Description” which contains the following language: 


This project has been initiated as part of a larger effort to address safety along the entire U.S. Route 6 corridor.  Widening of shoulders will better control ingress and egress from residences and businesses in a safer and more controlled manner.  The intersection improvements will provide exclusive left turn lanes as well as improved intersection sight distance thereby reducing the number of rear end collisions.


18.  It is found that the record described in paragraph 17, above, is considered by the complainants to be responsive to the complainant Zizka’s June 7, 2000 request.


19.  It is found that in order to locate and retrieve records similar to that described in paragraph 17, above, the respondents would have to make subjective determinations to identify such records, which determinations would also constitute research.


20.  It is found that the respondents are not required to conduct research in order to comply with the complainants’ request.


21.  Based on the foregoing, it is concluded that the respondents did not violate the disclosure provisions of §§1-210(a) or 1-212(a), G.S., by failing to provide the complainants with records responsive to their request.


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 nothing in the FOI Act requires the respondents to conduct research on behalf of the complainants, nothing in that Act prohibits them from doing so either.  Nor does the FOI Act prohibit the complainants from inspecting all of the respondents’ non-exempt public records and having copies made of those of interest to them.  In light of the above and the fact that a political subdivision of the state is interested in access to information important to its residents, the Commission urges the parties to work cooperatively to effectuate the legitimate interest of the complainants with the least amount of disruption to the respondents.



Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 23, 2001.




Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission





Michael A. Zizka and Town

of Coventry

c/o Kari L. Olson, Esq.

Murtha Cullina LLP

CityPlace I - 185 Asylum Street

Hartford, CT 06103-3469


Manager of State Design,

State of Connecticut, Department

of Transportation, Bureau of

Engineering and Highway

Operations; and State of

Connecticut, Department of


c/o Charles H. Walsh, Esq.

Assistant Attorney General

55 Elm Street

Hartford, CT 06106





Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission