OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by
William T. Stortz,
|Docket #FIC 2001-250|
|October 10, 2001|
above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 26, 2001, 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),
2. It is found that by letter
dated May 7, 2001, the complainant requested that the respondent permit him
“to review all the documentation used to develop the proposal to expand the
Library” and “the documentation that was provided to the Library Board
Members for their consideration in evaluating and voting on this proposal”
(hereinafter “requested records”).
3. It is found that by letter dated May 9, 2001, the respondent acknowledged receipt of the request and informed the complainant that, “in order for me to comply with your request, I need to know exactly what documentation you want.”
4. It is found that by letter dated May 13, 2001, the complainant informed the respondent that he is interested in information concerning the allocation of space i.e. an area breakdown showing how the square footage will be allocated in the proposed expansion.
5. It is found that by letter dated May 16, 2001, the respondent informed the complainant that the requested information “is not available at this time” and that “when the information does become available, it will be sent to you”
6. Having failed to receive access to inspect the requested records, the complainant, by letter dated May 17, 2001 and filed on May 22, 2001, appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information Act by denying him access to inspect the requested records.
7. Section 1-200(5), G.S.,
defines “public records” as: “[a]ny recorded data or information
relating to the conduct of the public's business prepared, owned, used,
received or retained by a public agency, whether such data or information be
handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or
recorded by any other method.
8. Section 1-210(a), G.S., provides:
Except 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. It is found that the respondent had a one-page summary titled “Space Needs for 20 year program” (hereinafter “space needs summary”) at the time she received the complainant’s request. The respondent contends that the space needs summary was a “draft” subject to change and was not a final document, and therefore she did not provide it to the complainant.
10. It is concluded that the
space needs summary is a “public record” within the definition and meaning
of §§1-200(5) and 1-210(a), G.S.
11. Although the respondent did not point to any specific statute exempting the space needs summary from disclosure, the Commission nonetheless will address whether §1-210(b)(1), G.S., provided a basis for the respondent to withhold the space needs summary from the complainant.
12. Section 1-210(b)(1), G.S., permits the nondisclosure of “[p]reliminary drafts or notes provided the public agency has determined that the public interest in withholding such documents clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”
13. Section 1-210(e)(1), G.S., further provides that
notwithstanding §1-210(b)(1), G.S., disclosure shall be required of:
Interagency or intra-agency memoranda or letters, advisory opinions, recommendations or any report comprising part of the process by which governmental decisions and policies are formulated, except disclosure shall not be required of a preliminary draft of a memorandum, prepared by a member of the staff of a public agency, which is subject to revision prior to submission to or discussion among the members of such agency. [Emphasis added.]
14. It is found that the
respondent did not provide any evidence, and therefore failed to prove, that withholding
the space needs document at the time of the complainant’s request clearly
outweighed the public interest in disclosure, within the meaning of §1-210(b)(1),
15. Further, pursuant to
§1-210(e)(1), G.S., the space needs summary constitutes a “recommendation”
or “report” from the architects working on the proposal for the library
expansion. Such summary comprises
part of the process by which governmental decisions were being formulated, within the meaning of §1-210(e)(1),
G.S. Also, such summary was not a
draft “memorandum, prepared by a member of the staff of a public agency,
which is subject to revision prior to submission to or discussion among the
members of such agency”, within the
meaning of §1-210(e)(1), G.S.
16. It is therefore concluded that the space needs summary was not exempt from disclosure pursuant to §1-210(b)(1), G.S., and consequently, the respondent violated §1-210(a), G.S., when she failed to provide the complainant with access to a copy of such summary.
17. It is found that subsequent to the filing of the complaint in this matte, the complainant obtained a copy of the space needs summary from an anonymous source.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. In light of the fact that the complainant is already in possession of a copy of the space needs summary, no further order is recommended.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of October 10, 2001.
Petrea A. Jones
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:
William T. Stortz
31 Oxbow Drive
Bristol, CT 06010
Library Director, Bristol Public
Library, City of Bristol
c/o Dean B. Kilbourne, Esq.
Bristol Corporation Counsel's Office
111 North Main Street
Bristol, CT 06010
Petrea A. Jones
Acting Clerk of the Commission