OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by
|Docket #FIC 2001-362|
Director of Legal Affairs, City of Stamford,
|November 28, 2001|
above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 5, 2001, at
which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain
facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.
An in camera review was conducted with respect to the
billing records at issue.
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. By letter of complaint dated July 27, 2001 and filed with the Commission on July 30, 2001, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information Act by denying him unrestricted access to certain billing records for legal services, as described more fully in paragraph 3a and 3b, below.
3. It is found that by letters dated July 20 and July 23, 2001, the complainant requested that the respondent provide him with access to:
a. the billings submitted by outside counsel for legal services in James Rubino, et al. v. Dannel Malloy et al.; the retainer or like agreement with the [law] firm representing the defendants in that matter; the RFP; other RFP’s or proposals submitted by other firms or attorneys for this work; the records of your review, approval of, or other action taken on the bills submitted; your authorization for the work done; and
b. the billings submitted by outside counsel for legal
services in the matter of Granite State Outdoor
Advertising v. Zoning Board of Stamford; the retainer or like agreement with the [law] firm retained by you in that matter; the defendants in that matter; the RFP; other RFP’s or proposals submitted by other firms or attorneys for this work; the records of your review, approval of, or other action taken on the bills submitted; your authorization for the work done.
4. It is found that by memorandum dated July 26, 2001, the respondent acknowledged receipt of the requests, provided the complainant with some of the requested records, and informed the complainant that the billing records were available for review, but that, because many entries on such billing records are “attorney-client privileged” or “pertain to pending litigation” they are exempt from public disclosure, and that the respondent would need the complainant’s “written agreement as an attorney and member of” the respondent office of legal affairs not to disclose the contents of the billing records to any third party for any purpose, and that without such an agreement the billing records would first have to be redacted.
5. It is found that by letter dated July 27, 2001, the complainant informed the respondent that “the conditions you have proposed are unacceptable” and that he would therefore treat the respondent’s response as a denial, following which the complainant filed this appeal.
6. Section 1-200(5), G.S., defines “public records” as follows:
Public records or files means any 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.
7. Section 1-210(a), G.S., further provides, in relevant part:
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. 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. [Emphasis added.]
It is found that the only records maintained by the respondent that are
responsive to the complainant’s requests, as described in paragraph 3a and
3b, above, are retainer agreements and billing records from the law firms of
Shipman & Goodwin LLP and Wiggin & Dana.
It is concluded that the retainer agreements and billings records are
“public records” within the meaning of §§1-200(5) and 1-210(a), G.S.
9. Following the hearing in this matter, the respondent provided the Commission with a copy of the billing records, and such records were reviewed in camera. For identification purposes, the in camera records consist of 100 pages and have been designated IC page #s 2001-362-1 through 2001-362-100, inclusive.
10. The only exemption being claimed by the respondent, as set forth on the Index accompanying the in camera records, is with respect to §1-210(b)(4), G.S., which provision permits the nondisclosure of: “[r]ecords pertaining to strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims or pending litigation to which the public agency is a party until such litigation or claim has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled.” The respondent claims that certain portions of entries on the billing records should be redacted prior to public disclosure.
11. It is found that James Rubino, et al. v. Dannel Malloy et al. and Granite State Outdoor Advertising v. Zoning Board of Stamford are cases pending in appellate court. It is also found that the city of Stamford is a party in both cases.
12. Upon review of the in camera records it is found that those portions of entries on the in camera records proposed by the respondent for redaction, specifically, portions contained on IC page #s 2001-362-5, 2001-362-11, 2001-362-12, 2001-362-20, 2001-362-21, 2001-362-22, 2001-362-23, 2001-362-25, 2001-362-34, 2001-362-42, 2001-362-44, 2001-362-47, 2001-362-48, 2001-362-49, 2001-362-50, 2001-362-51, 2001-362-52, 2001-362-53, 2001-362-54, 2001-362-57, 2001-362-58, 2001-362-59, 2001-362-60, 2001-362-61, 2001-362-62, 2001-362-63, 2001-362-66, 2001-362-67, 2001-362-68, 2001-362-69, 2001-362-72, 2001-362-73, 2001-362-74, 2001-362-75, 2001-362-77, 2001-362-78, 2001-362-79, 2001-362-81, 2001-362-84, 2001-362-85, 2001-362-87, 2001-362-88, 2001-362-90, 2001-362-94, 2001-362-95 and 2001-362-97, pertain to strategy and negotiations with respect to the Rubino and Granite State cases, within the meaning of §1-210(b)(4), G.S.
13. It is therefore concluded that the portions of entries on the in camera records proposed by the respondent for redaction, and described in paragraph 12, above, are permissively exempt from public disclosure pursuant to §1-210(b)(4), G.S., and consequently, the respondent did not violate §1-210(a), G.S., when he failed to provide the complainant with unrestricted access to such portions.
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.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of November 28, 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:
Director of Legal Affairs,
City of Stamford
c/o Andrew J.
Director of Legal
P.O. Box 10152
Petrea A. Jones
Acting Clerk of the Commission