FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

Lorita Ouellette,

 
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2004-418

Chief, Police Department,

City of Bristol,

 
  Respondents March 23, 2005
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on January 10, 2005, 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.  It is found that, at some date subsequent to August 23, 2004 and prior to September 10, 2004, the complainant completed a form supplied by the respondent whereby she requested a copy of an August 23, 2004, 911 tape [hereinafter “the requested record”].  It is further found that such form indicated a fee schedule including $28.50 per hour for research time. 

 

3.  By letter dated and filed with the Commission on September 10, 2004, the complainant alleged:

 

“Complaint

 

Enclosed is a copy of a Bristol Police Department form to request a copy of a 911 call made to the Bristol Police Department.  They are requesting a deposit for a copy of the 911 call search.  It was initialed by the clerk in the records department.”

 

            4.  At the hearing in this matter, the hearing officer questioned the complainant as to the substance of her complaint.  The complainant then alleged that the fee structure is open-ended and that there is no “cap” on what the respondent could possibly charge for a copy of the requested record.  

 

            5.  Section 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 inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours or to receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-212….”

 

            6.  Section 1-212(b), G.S., provides in relevant part that the fee for providing copies of computerized records:

 

“…shall not exceed the cost thereof to the public agency.  In determining such costs for a copy, other than for a printout which exists at the time that the agency responds to the request for such copy, an agency may include only:  (1)  An amount equal to the hourly salary attributed to all agency employees engaged in providing the requested computer-stored public record, including their time performing the formatting or programming functions necessary to provide the copy as requested, but not including search or retrieval costs except as provided in subdivision (4) of this subsection; (2)  An amount equal to the cost to the agency of engaging an outside professional electronic copying service to provide such copying services, if such service is necessary to provide the copying as requested; (3)  The actual cost of the storage devices or media provided to the person making the request in complying with such request; and (4)  The computer time charges incurred by the agency in providing the requested computer-stored public record where another agency or contractor provides the agency with computer storage and retrieval services….”

 

7.  It is concluded that the requested record is a public record within the meaning of 1-210(a), G.S., and that such record is part of the Bristol Police Department computer system.

 

8.  At the hearing in this matter, the respondent acknowledged that it is a violation of the Freedom of Information Act to assess research time per se for providing copies of computer records.   Further, the respondent stated that the Bristol Police Department will henceforth only assess fees set forth in 1-212, G.S., for copies of computer records.  Additionally, the respondent also offered to provide the complainant with the requested record for the cost of a cassette tape only. 

 

9.  It is concluded that there is no requirement in the Freedom of Information Act to place a “cap” on possible copying fees, as the complainant alleges.   

 

Based upon the facts and circumstances of this case, no order by the Commission is recommended.

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 23, 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:

 

Lorita Ouellette

130 Carol Drive

Bristol, CT 06010

 

Chief, Police Department,

City of Bristol

c/o Dean B. Kilbourne, Esq. and

Richard E. Lacey, Esq.

Bristol Corporation Counsel’s Office

111 North Main Street

Bristol, CT 06010

 

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2004-418FD/paj/3/29/2005