FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Stephen Borer,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2004-190

Borough Clerk/Secretary, Borough of

Woodmont; and City Clerk, City of Milford,

 
  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 respondents 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 2004-125; Stephen Borer v. Borough Clerk/Secretary, Borough of Woodmont; and Docket #FIC 2004-153; Stephen Borer v. Richard Austin, Warden, Borough of Woodmont; and Borough Clerk, Borough of Woodmont.

 

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

 

1.      It is found that the respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-200(1), G.S.

 

2.      By letters dated March 25, 2004 and April 1, 2004, to the respondent Borough Clerk and the respondent City Clerk respectively, the complainant made a request for a copy of:

 

a.       the audit of the Borough of Woodmont’s accounts mentioned by Warden Austin at the City of Milford’s Board of Finance meeting held on February 9, 2004; and

 

b.      the court case mentioned by Warden Austin at that same meeting.

 

 

3.      By letter dated April 14, 2004 and filed on April 19, 2004, the complainant appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to comply with his requests.

 

4.      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. 

 

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.      With respect to the complainant’s request to the respondent Borough Clerk, the complainant claimed, at the hearing on this matter, that when he inquired on March 10, 2004 about a records request he made in February 2004, he was informed that the respondent Borough Clerk was instructed by the Warden of the Borough of Woodmont (hereinafter “Warden”) not to comply with the complainant’s request.

 

8.      It is found, however, that the respondent clerk was hired in early 2004.

 

9.      It is also found that the respondent Borough Clerk was instructed by the Warden to refer all records requests to him, including, rather than specifically, 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 Borough Clerk 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 submitted a records request on March 9, 2004 and the records request described in paragraph 2, above, to the respondent Borough Clerk.

 

12.   By letter dated June 25, 2004 and July 9, 2004, the respondent Warden informed the complainant that the records responsive to all 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 Borough Clerk 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, it is found 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.   With respect to the timeliness of the Warden’s response on behalf of the respondent Borough Clerk, it is found that there was an extreme delay in compliance with the complainant’s records request.

 

17.   It is also found, however, that the respondent Borough Clerk and the Warden 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 respondent Borough Clerk so that she could search for the records. 

 

18.   Consequently, it is concluded that the respondent Borough Clerk did not violate the disclosure provisions of 1-210(a), G.S., and the complainant’s request for civil penalties is denied.

 

19.   With respect to the complainant’s request to the respondent City Clerk of the city of Milford (hereinafter “respondent City Clerk”), it is found that the requested records are not maintained by the respondent city clerk or in any office of the city of Milford.

 

20.   It is therefore concluded that the respondent City Clerk did not violate the disclosure provisions of 1-210(a) or 1-212(a), G.S., as alleged by the complainant.

 

 

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

 

City Clerk, City of Milford

c/o Marilyn J. Lipton, Esq.

City Attorney

City Hall

110 River Street

Milford, CT 06460

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2004-190FD/paj/12/16/2004