FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Lawrence Cook and Journal Inquirer,
  Complainant  
  against Docket #FIC 2003-289

State of Connecticut,

Department of Public Safety,

Division of State Police,

 
  Respondent  May 26, 2004
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 17, 2004, at which time the complainants 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.  It is found that during a period of several weeks subsequent to May 8, 2003, the complainants made several oral requests of the respondent for a copy of an internal affairs investigation report (hereinafter “requested record” or sometimes “the record”) concerning a constable for the Town of Ellington, Michael Nieliwocki (hereinafter “Nieliwocki”).

 

            3.  The complainants alleged that the record described in paragraph 2, above, was complete on May 8, 2003.

 

            4.  It is found that on June 25, 2003, State Police Sergeant J. Paul Vance, the respondent’s representative, told the complainants that release of the requested record was delayed because the record was very involved and several people had to scrutinize it.

 

            5.  It is found that by letter dated July 14, 2003, the complainants requested that the respondent provide them with access to the requested record. 

 

            6.  It is also found that by letter dated July 14, 2003, the respondent denied the complainants’ request by stating:

 

In response to your July 14, 2003 letter seeking access to an internal affairs investigation concerning a Michael Nieliwocki, please be advised that investigation is still pending at this time and is being referred to his employing authority, the Town of Ellington, for further action.  We therefore suggest that your request be redirected to the Town of Ellington.

 

            7.  It is found that by letter dated July 28, 2003, the complainants sought a copy of the record from the First Selectman, Town of Ellington. 

 

8.  By letter dated and filed on August 14, 2003, the complainants appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information Act by denying the complainants access to the record described in paragraph 2, above.

 

            9.  It is found that on September 3, 2003, the complainants were provided an opportunity to review a redacted copy of the record by the Town of Ellington’s First Selectmen’s office.

 

10.  At the hearing on this matter, the complainants narrowed the issue to one of promptness due to the fact that they were eventually allowed to see a redacted copy of the record.

 

11.  With respect to the complainants’ allegation described in paragraphs 8 and  10, above, 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 (1) inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours, (2) copy such records in accordance with subsection (g) of section 1-212, or (3) receive a copy of such records in accordance with 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. 

 

12.  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 . . . .”

 

13.  It is found that the requested record is a public record within the meaning of 1-210(a), G.S.

 

14.  It is found that it was necessary for the record to be reviewed by a number of people within the respondent’s agency before its release to ensure its accuracy and to determine if any exemption applied.

 

15.  However, it is found that the respondent failed to prove that any exemption applies to the requested record and ultimately failed to provide the complainants with a copy of such record.

 

            16.  It is concluded, therefore, that the respondent violated 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., in this matter.

 

No order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint.

 

           

 

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 26, 2004.

 

 

___________________________________

Dolores E. Tarnowski

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:

 

Lawrence Cook and Journal Inquirer,

306 Progress Drive, P.O. Box 510

Manchester, CT  06045-0510

 

State of Connecticut,

Department of Public Safety,

Division of State Police

c/o Henri Alexandre, Esq.

Assistant Attorney General

110 Sherman Street

Hartford, CT  06105

 

 

 

___________________________________

Dolores E. Tarnowski

Clerk of the Commission

 

FIC/2003-289/FD/2mes/06/18/2004