FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by CORRECTED FINAL DECISION
Stephen Borer,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2004-153

Richard Austin, Warden, Borough

of Woodmont; Borough Clerk,

Borough of Woodmont,

 
  Respondents February 9, 2005
       

 

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 2004-125; Stephen Borer v. Borough Clerk/Secretary, 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-200(1), G.S.

 

2.      By letter dated March 9, 2004, the complainant submitted a request to the respondent clerk to review the minutes of:

 

a.       the board of Warden and Burgesses’ meeting held on Monday, March 1, 2004;

 

b.      the meeting of the current Borough Charter Revision Commission held on Thursday, March 4, 2004; and

 

c.       any special, emergency or committee meetings held during the month of February 2004.

 

3.      At the hearing on this matter, the complainant claimed that on March 10, 2004, he inquired about a February 2004 records request he made to the respondent clerk and was informed that she had been instructed by the respondent Warden not to comply with the complainant’s requests.

 

4.      By letter dated March 24, 2004 and filed on March 29, 2004, the complainant appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondents violated the disclosure provision of 1-210(a), G.S., by failing to comply with his March 9, 2004 request.  The complainant requested the imposition of civil penalties against the respondent Warden.

 

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 . . . . 

 

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 respondent clerk was hired in early 2004.

 

8.      It is found that the respondent clerk had been instructed by the respondent Warden to refer all records request to him, including, rather than specifically, those from the complainant, because he felt that she was unfamiliar with the Borough and its records, at that time.

 

9.       It is further found that at a February 2004 City of Milford Board of Finance meeting, the respondent Warden attempted to inform the complainant that he should send his records requests directly to him rather than to the respondent clerk for the reason described in paragraph 8, above.  However, the complainant rebuffed the respondent Warden and indicated that he would not direct his requests to the respondent Warden.

 

10.  It is found that, thereafter, the complainant submitted the records request described in paragraph 2, above, and another dated March 25, 2004.

 

11.   By letters dated June 25, 2004 and July 9, 2004, the respondent Warden informed the complainant that the records responsive to all his requests were available.

 

12.   It is found that, as of the date of the hearing in this matter, the complainant has not responded to the respondent Warden’s letters, described in paragraph 11, above.

 

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

 

14.   With respect to the respondent Warden’s instruction described in paragraph 8, above, 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.

 

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

 

16.   Notwithstanding the findings in paragraph #15, above, it is found that compliance with the complainant’s request was delayed unduly and therefore not prompt within the meaning of  1-210(a), G.S.

 

17.   Consequently, it is concluded that the respondents violated the disclosure provision of 1-210(a), G.S.  The complainant’s request for civil penalties is, however, denied.

 

 

The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:

 

1.      Henceforth, the respondent shall comply strictly with the provisions of

      1-210(a), G.S. 

 

                                                                                   

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of February 9, 2005.

 

________________________________

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

 

Richard Austin, Warden, Borough

of Woodmont; Borough Clerk,

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/2004-153CFD/paj/2/17/2005