FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Doris Nowak,
  Complainant  
  against Docket #FIC 2004-069

Town Planner,

Town of Newington,

 
  Respondent  August  25, 2004
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 22, 2004, 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 February 2, 2004, the complainant made a request to the respondent for:

 

a.       “a copy of all town planning and zoning commission meeting minutes regarding Mr. Libretta’s applications to buy certain property now being considered for sale to Walgreens;” and

 

b.      “a copy of any related information including the exact reason why Mr. Libretta’s applications to buy the property was refused.”

 

3.      By letter dated February 11, 2004, the complainant appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to respond to her request.

 

4.      Section 1-210(a), G.S., 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 . . . 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. 

 

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

 

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

 

7.      It is found that the minutes of Newington town planning commission [hereinafter “TPC”] meetings between the years 1940 and 1972 are the records responsive to the complainant’s request, described in paragraphs 2a and 2b,above.

 

8.      It is found that by letter dated February 13, 2004 and received by the complainant on February 18, 2004, the respondent informed the complainant that the minutes of the town planning commission’s meetings for the periods of 1940 to 1961 and 1965 through 1972 were available for her inspection, and the search for the missing years of 1962, 1963 and 1964 would continue.

 

9.      It is found that the respondent sent a copy of the same letter described in paragraph 8, above, to inform the complainant, with a notation dated February 20, 2004, that the missing years’ minutes had been located and were available for her inspection.

 

10.   It is found that as of the date of the hearing in this matter, the complainant had not inspected the requested records and informed the Commission at the hearing on this matter that she was not going to do so.

 

11.   At the hearing on this matter, the complainant contended that the letter dated February 13, 2004 was so dated to give the appearance that the delay in responding to her request was shorter than it actually was.  The complainant contended that the respondent’s letter of February 13, 2004 was not prompt because the respondent could have and should have notified her sooner that certain records could not be found.  The complainant also contended that the respondent’s failure to respond to her request within four business days constituted a violation of the FOI Act.

 

12.   At the hearing on this matter, the respondent conceded that he did not respond to the complainant’s request within four business days.

 

13.   Section 1-206(a), G.S., provides:

 

Any denial of the right to inspect or copy records provided for under section 1-210 shall be made to the person requesting such right by the public agency official who has custody or control of the public record, in writing, within four business days of such request …  Failure to comply with a request to so inspect or copy such public record within the applicable number of business days shall be deemed to be a denial.

 

14.   It is found that the complainant’s request covers a lengthy time period and to comply with her request required the respondent to conduct a lengthy and thorough search of a large volume of records.

 

15.   It is concluded that under the facts and circumstances of this case, where the records at issue were compiled and made available to the complainant in just over two weeks, such provision of access was “prompt”, within the meaning of 1-210(a), G.S. 

 

16.   It is also found, however, that the respondent could have, and should have, at a minimum, informed the complainant within four business days that her request had been received and would be complied with.  His failure to do so led the complainant to believe that her request was being denied, within the meaning of 1-206(a), G.S. 

 

17.   The respondent testified that he now makes contact with requesters within four business days of the receipt of an FOI request. 

 

 

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 August 25, 2004.

 

 

___________________________________

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:

 

Doris Nowak

182 Griswoldville Road

Newington, CT 06111

 

Town Planner, Town of Newington

c/o Ronald P. Denault, Esq.

365 Willard Ave., Suite 2E      

Newington, CT 06111

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

FIC/2004-069/FD/paj/08/26/2004