OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|Jay V. Fletcher,|
|against||Docket #FIC 2002-170|
Mayor, Town of East Hartford; and
Assessor, Town of East Hartford,
|Respondent||July 10, 2002|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 30, 2002, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared 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. It is found that through a series of letters sent between March 1 and March 20, 2002 to the respondents, the complainant requested that the respondents permit him to review the criteria, factors, files, records, city procedures, their own procedures, formulas, justification, documentation, computer program outline(s), etc used by Lesher-Glendinning Municipal Services (“LGM”), in determining the recent reassessment value of his property and all other properties on Colby Drive, East Hartford, CT (hereinafter “requested records”).
3. It is found that by letter dated March 7, 2002, the respondent assessor responded to the complainant’s March 1, 2002 request indicating that “it will be some time before we will have all of the documents, files, schedules, etc. organized in our office” and informed the complainant that “a copy of the contract is available which spells out the … town’s and companies procedures and responsibilities.”
4. It is found that by letter dated March 14, 2002, the respondent assessor further informed the complainant that “the informal hearing records will be available next week” and that he was still unclear in light of his March 13, 2002 conversation with the complainant “what other records/documents” the complainant was requesting.
5. It is found that on March 18, 2002, the respondent assessor provided the complainant with certain records concerning the complainant’s assessment. Such records were contained in an “informal hearing” file and included a copy of the complainant’s field card, and the informal hearing review sheet completed by LGM.
6. However, believing that the records provided to him on March 18, 2002 did not satisfy his request, the complainant, by letter dated April 12, 2002 and filed on April 16, 2002, appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to comply with his request.
7. Section 1-200(5), G.S., provides that:
"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.
8. Section 1-210(a), G.S., further provides in relevant part that:
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.
9. It is found that the complainant is trying to understand what was the basis or criteria used to determine the various assigned values reflected on his and other property field cards. For example, on a sample field card there is a decimal value assigned to a basement, the number of bathrooms and fireplace. Essentially, the complainant seeks the back-up data/records that support, justify and/or explain the values indicated on the field cards.
10. It is found that the respondent assessor has certain tables and sales records, maintained in a separate file, which are responsive to the complainant’s request for “any and all…records…used in the reassessment” of the complainant’s property.
11. It is found that the tables and sales records, described in paragraph 10, above, are public records within the meaning of §§1-200(5) and 1-210(a), G.S.
12. At the hearing in this matter the respondents indicated their willingness to permit the complainant to inspect the tables and sales records, and indeed all other records that they have. The respondents contend, and it is found that they have consistently offered the complainant access to inspect all of their records. It is found however, that whereas the complainant does not know specifically what records were used by the town [of East Hartford] and LGM in the revaluation process and could not know that the respondent assessor keeps such records in one or more files, the respondent assessor does know, and consequently, when the respondent assessor received the complainant’s broad request for “all” their files and records used in the revaluation process, the tables and sales records should have been included in the records made available to the complainant on March 18, 2002.
13. Consequently, with respect to the tables and sales records, which were not specifically provided to the complainant in connection with his request for “any and all criteria, factors, files, records, city procedures, [LGM] …procedures, formulas, justification, documentation, computer program outline(s), etc. that… [LGM] used in the reassessment of” the complainant’s property and all other properties on Colby Drive, it is found that the respondent assessor failed to make such tables and sales records available to the complainant promptly, and therefore violated §1-210(a), G.S.
14. With respect to a) the determination of the size of a finished basement and b) the final determination of the assessment value of a property, it is concluded that those are not issues over which this commission has jurisdiction. However, the complainant is certainly entitled to inspect and obtain a copy of any non-exempt records that the respondents have that shed light on how the town and LGM arrived at the actual determinations made with respect to the revaluation of the complainant’s and any other property.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint.
1. Forthwith, the respondent assessor shall permit the complainant to inspect the tables, sales records and any other records used by the town or LGM in determining the reassessment of the complainant’s property and all other properties on Colby Drive.
2. The respondent assessor shall provide the complainant with an affidavit attesting to the fact that all records used by the town or LGM in determining the reassessment of the complainant’s property and all other properties on Colby Drive (including but not limited to the tables and sales records, described in paragraph 1 of the order) have been made available to the complainant for his inspection and copying, and further specifying what, if any specific records requested, they do not have, in that such records do not exit.
3. The Commission also suggests that both the complainant and the office of the respondent assessor use their best efforts to better communicate with each other.
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
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:
Jay V. Fletcher
116 Colby Drive
East Hartford, CT 06108-1416
Mayor, Town of East Hartford; and
Assessor, Town of East Hartford
c/o Jose R. Ramirez, Esq.
Assistant Corporation Counsel
East Hartford, CT 06108
Petrea A. Jones
Acting Clerk of the Commission