FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Stephen Borer,  
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2004-125

Borough Clerk/Secretary,

Borough of Woodmont,

 
  Respondents  December 15, 2004
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 2, 2004, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  For purposes of hearing, this case was consolidated with: Docket #FIC 2004-153; Stephen Borer v. Richard Austin, Warden, Borough of Woodmont; and Borough Clerk, Borough of Woodmont; and Docket# FIC 2004-190; Stephen Borer v. Borough Clerk/Secretary, Borough of Woodmont; and City Clerk, City of Milford

 

After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:

 

1.      It is found that the respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-200(1), G.S.

 

2.      By letter dated February 20, 2004, the complainant made a request to the respondent for:

 

a.       all correspondence concerning the Belmont Street Groin within the last 4 years to present;

 

b.      all correspondence between the city of Milford and the Borough [within the] last 2 years;

 

c.       any proof of insurance of Borough deeded lands, including the Belmont Street Groin within the last 4 years to present.  A cover sheet will be . . .[sufficient] . . . ;

 

d.      the 2002 and 2003 Borough annual meeting minutes; and

 

e.       minutes of meetings between the warden and burgesses for the months of July [and] November of 2003 and January 2004.

 

3.      At the hearing in this matter, the complainant claimed that on March 10, 2004 he inquired about his records request and he was told that the respondent had been instructed by the Warden of the Borough of Woodmont (hereinafter “ the Warden”) not to comply with the complainant’s request.

 

4.      By letter dated March 12, 2004 and filed on March 16, 2004, the complainant appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to comply with his request.

 

5.      Section 1-210(a) 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 (1) inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours . . . or (3) receive a copy of such records in accordance with section 1-212. 

 

6.      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 . . . .” 

 

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

 

8.      It is found that at the time the complainant made his records request, the Warden had recently hired the respondent.

 

9.      It is found that the respondent was instructed by the Warden to refer all records requests to him, including, those from the complainant, because he felt that she was unfamiliar with the Borough and its records.

 

10.   It is further found that at a February 2004 City of Milford Board of Finance meeting, the Warden attempted to inform the complainant that he should send his records requests directly to him rather than to the respondent for the reason described in paragraph 9, above.  However, the complainant rebuffed the Warden and indicated that he would not direct his requests to the Warden.

 

11.  It is found that thereafter, the complainant, by letters dated March 9 and March 25, 2004, submitted two more records requests to the respondent.

 

12.   By letter dated June 25, 2004, and July 9, 2004, the Warden informed the complainant that the records responsive to all three of his requests were available. 

 

13.   It is found that, as of the date of the hearing in this matter, the complainant has not responded to the Warden’s letters.

 

14.   At the hearing on this matter, the complainant contended that he should have been able to obtain the requested records from the respondent and that it should not have taken several months before the responsive records were made available.

 

15.   With respect to the Warden’s instruction described in paragraph 9, above, that while the Commission understands that new employees require training and time to become familiar with their duties, public agencies must establish an internal procedure for forwarding requests to appropriate personnel, so that members of the public can make a request to any employee within that agency, no matter their tenure. 

 

16.   It is also found however that the respondent and the Warden only work part-time, and one of the responsive records was very old and no longer maintained by the Borough.  Further, the Warden was generally unavailable between the months of February and June because his wife had become ill and he was unable to search for the records or give guidance to the clerk so that she could search for the records.

 

17.   It is found that while compliance with the complainant’s request took a very long time, based on the findings in paragraphs 10 and 16, above, compliance with the complainant’s request was without undue delay and therefore, prompt within the meaning of 1-210(a), G.S.

 

18.   Consequently, it is concluded that the respondent did not violate the disclosure provision of 1-210(a), G.S.

 

 

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 special meeting of December 15, 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:

 

Stephen Borer

204 Anderson Avenue

Milford, CT 06460

 

Borough Clerk/Secretary

Borough of Woodmont

c/o Gerald T. Weiner, Esq.

Weinstein, Weiner, Ignal,

Napolitano & Shapiro, P.C.

350 Fairfield Avenue

PO Box 9177

Bridgeport, CT 06601

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2004-125FD/paj/12/16/2004