In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
El Sulmann,  
  against   Docket #FIC 2002-019

Michael Milici, Assessor, Town of

East Haven,

  Respondent July 10, 2002


The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 31, 2002, 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.  By letter dated January 10, 2002, and filed January 14, 2002, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by denying his request for all of the respondent’s records pertaining to eight properties owned by the City of New Haven, and requesting that the maximum civil penalty be levied against the respondent.


3.  It is found that the respondent, through its private revaluation company, notified the City of New Haven on or about November 26, 2001 that the assessment for eight city-owned properties classified as “for airport use” had been changed.


4.  It is found that the changes principally resulted from an adjustment to the per-acre rate of valuation applied to similar airport-use properties, and that the respondent had provided the revaluation company with a list of such similar properties and the rates at which they were assessed by other communities.


5.  It is found that the revaluation company made changes to the properties’ field cards, using the respondent’s records, and then returned all of the records it had used to the respondent, except for the list of similar properties, which neither the respondent nor the revaluation company currently has a copy of.


6.  It is found that the respondent then entered the values from the field cards into his computer, which generated the new valuations.


7.  It is found that the mathematical reason for the changed valuations may be determined by comparing the new field cards with the field cards as they existed prior to the change in valuation.


            8.  It is found that, by letter dated December 13, 2001, the complainant requested that the respondent provide copies of all records for the eight city-owned airport-use properties, including but not limited to the assessor’s file, all correspondence, file memoranda, field notes, letters, memos, field cards, valuations, calculations and computer printouts from 1996 to 2001.


            9.  It is found that the complainant telephoned the respondent between December 13 and December 28, 2001, to follow-up on the status of his request, leaving a message for the respondent.


10.  It is found that, by telefax on December 28, 2001, the complainant again requested the records described in paragraph 8, above, and asked the respondent to expedite his response, expressing a need for the records in a timely manner, and asking if there were any applicable fees.


11.  It is found that the respondent, pursuant to City of East Haven policy, informed City Corporation Counsel and the City administration of the request, but did not provide any records to, or communicate with, the complainant, while he was awaiting advice.


12.  It is found that the respondent only provided records to the complainant after he received advice from counsel, and after the complainant filed this complaint, at which time, on approximately February 6, 2002, he provided the complainant with the field cards for the eight properties, and a notice to the East Haven Tax Collector concerning a list of 19 properties, including the eight New Haven properties, that had been revalued “to correct a clerical omission or mistake in the assessment list of 2000.”


13.  Section 1-200(5), G.S., provides in relevant part:


"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, or to which a public agency is entitled to receive a copy by law or contract under section 1-218, whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.



14.  It is concluded that the records described in paragraph 12, above, are public records within the meaning of §1-200(5), G.S.


15.  The respondent maintains that neither he nor the revaluation company have any additional records responsive to the complainant’s request.


16.  Section 1-210(a), G.S. 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. 


17.  Section 1-212(a), G.S., in turn provides in relevant part that “[a] person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record. 


18.  The complainant maintains that either the respondent or its revaluation company must, or should, maintain additional relevant records.


19.  Specifically, the complainant points to two documents in his possession that were generated by the respondent, relate to the eight properties, but were not delivered with the other records provided to the complainant.


20.  It is found that the two documents consist of a Revaluation Notice of Assessment Change to the City of New Haven, pertaining to one of the eight properties, and a November 26, 2001 letter to the City of New Haven advising it of the increase in assessments to the eight properties, which November 26, 2001 letter apparently precipitated the complainant’s request in this matter.


21.  It is found that the respondent reasonably concluded that the complainant was not requesting these two documents, which the respondent correctly understood already to be in the complainant’s possession.


22.  It is also found that the existence of the two documents described in paragraph 20, above, does not create a reasonable inference that other records must exist that were not provided to the complainant.


23.  The complainant additionally maintains that the respondent must or should maintain records of how the new valuations were reached, such as the actual calculations, or the criteria used for determining the new valuations.


24.  It is found, however, that the new assessments were produced by the respondent’s computer software, using the values displayed in the field cards.


25.  It is also found that the complainant specifically is not seeking the computer software that generates the assessments.


26.  It is also found that neither the respondent nor its revaluation company maintain any additional records that are responsive to the complainant’s request.


27.  The complainant also maintains that the respondent was not prompt in providing the records that it ultimately did deliver after the filing of this complaint.


28.  It is found that there existed at all relevant times litigation between the parties concerning the taxation of, but not the revaluation of, the eight properties, which litigation may have been a factor in the respondent’s delay in providing records.


29.  It is also found, however, that the only records ultimately provided to the complainant, the field cards and the notice to the tax collector correcting the assessment list as it pertained to the eight properties, are in virtually all circumstances readily and necessarily available to the public from the respondent, and that there is nothing about these particular field cards or the assessment notice that would make them exempt from disclosure.


30.  It is concluded, therefore, that there was an undue delay in providing the requested records to the complainant, and that the respondent violated the provisions of §§1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S, by not providing such records promptly. 


31.  It is also found that the respondent relied upon the policy of the City of East Haven to withhold all records until disclosure had been approved by either the City Corporation Counsel or the administration.


32.  It is concluded that the respondent’s reliance on the City’s policy in delaying his response to the complainant’s was a reasonable basis for his lack of promptness, and that therefore a civil penalty is not appropriate.


31.  However, §1-210(a), G.S.,  provides in relevant part:


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.


32.  It is found that the policy of the City of East Haven to delay the respondent from providing copies of field cards until disclosure has been approved by the Corporation Counsel or the administration conflicts with the promptness provisions of §1-210(a), G.S., and diminishes the rights of the public to promptly inspect or promptly receive a copy of an indisputably public record.


33.  It is concluded, therefore, that the policy of the City of East Haven to delay providing copies of field cards until disclosure has been approved by the Corporation Counsel or the administration is void.



            The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:


            1.  The policy of the City of East Haven to delay providing access to or copies of field cards from the respondent’s office until disclosure is approved by either the Corporation Counsel or the administration is declared void.


            2.  Henceforth the respondent shall strictly comply with the promptness requirements of §§1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S.



Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of July 10, 2002.




Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission






El Sulmann

c/o Donna Chance Dowdie, Esq.

Assistant Corporation Counsel

City of New Haven

165 Church Street, 4th floor

New Haven, CT 06510


Michael Milici, Assessor,

Town of East Haven

c/o Lawrence C. Sgrignari, Esq.

Gesmonde, Pietrosimone,

Sgrignari & Pinkus, LLC

3127-3129 Whitney Avenue

Hamden, CT 06518-2344




Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission