FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Holly Blinkoff,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2004-350

Mayor, City of Torrington; Purchasing

Agency, City of Torrington; Planning

and Zoning Department, City of

Torrington; Comptroller, City of

Torrington; City Clerk, City of

Torrington; Fire Marshal, City of

Torrington; and Chief, Police

Department, City of Torrington,

 
  Respondents April 27, 2005
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 19, 2004, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  

At the hearing on this matter, the respondents moved to quash subpoenas issued by the complainant to Dana McGuiness, Mary Jane Gryniuk, Gerald Sack and Martin Gould, dated November 18, 2004, which motion is hereby denied.  All of the subpoenaed individuals failed to appear at the November 19, 2004 hearing.  Such failure was an act of contumacy, which should be referred to the appropriate authorities. 

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.      The Commission takes administrative notice of its record and final decision in Docket #FIC 2000-615; Holly J. Blinkoff v. Mayor, City of Torrington; Purchasing Agency, City of Torrington; Planning and Zoning Department, City of  Torrington; Comptroller, City of Torrington; City Clerk, City of Torrington; Fire Marshal, City of

Torrington; and Chief, Police Department, City of Torrington, notice of which final decision was issued on November 1, 2001 (hereinafter “Docket #FIC 2000-615”).

 

3.      In particular, the Commission takes administrative notice of paragraphs 2 and 3 of its order in Docket #FIC 2000-615, which provides:

“2. With respect to the complainant’s October 20, 2000 requests, each named respondent shall provide the complainant with copies of the requested records maintained by that respondent, along with a written inventory detailing which records have been provided and which records are not maintained by that respondent.  Such records and inventories shall be provided to the complainant within one hundred and twenty (120) days of the mailing of the notice of final decision in this matter.

3. To assist the respondents in complying with paragraph 2 of the order, above, the complainant is directed to inform the respondents, in writing, of the applicable time periods for the records sought where not specified in her October 20, 2000 requests, within ten (10) days of the mailing of the notice of final decision in this matter.”

4.      The respondents filed a motion to stay the Commission’s order in Docket #FIC 2000-615 and appealed the decision to the Superior Court.  The court denied the motion to stay and dismissed the appeal.  Mayor, City of Torrington, et al. v. Freedom of Information Commission, No. CV01-0511803S, Sup. Ct., Judicial District of New Britain (Cohn, J.) (March 19, 2002).

 

5.      By letter of complaint dated April 28, 2004 and filed on May 3, 2004 the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that:

 

a.       the respondents failed to comply with paragraph 2 of the order in Docket #FIC 2000-615, as quoted in paragraph 3, above; and

 

b.      that the respondent comptroller failed to comply with her April request for copies of all legal bills from Attorney Gould dated through April 2004.

 

6.      With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 5a, above, it is found that the respondents did not provide the complainant with copies of the requested records maintained by each respondent respectively, nor did any of the respondents provide a written inventory detailing which records have been provided and which records are not maintained by that respondent, as ordered in Docket #FIC 2000-615.

 

7.      The respondents maintain that the complainant never provided the time periods for the records she sought as ordered in Docket #FIC 2000-615 and therefore the respondents were precluded from complying with the order issued to them in Docket #FIC 2000-615.

 

8.      It is found, however, that the portion of the order directed to the complainant only applied to the requested records for which she had not already specified a time period and therefore the respondents were not impeded in any way in their ability to provide the records for which the complainant had already specified a time period. 

 

9.      It is also found that the respondents made no effort to comply with the order in Docket #FIC 2000-615, which they could have easily done by either contacting the complainant or this Commission regarding the complainant’s failure to provide the time periods as she was ordered in Docket #FIC 2000-615.  Instead, the respondents feigned an inability to comply and simply ignored the Commission’s order.

 

10.  It is found that the respondents’ reason for their failure to comply with the order in Docket #FIC 2000-615 is entirely without merit.

 

11.  It is found, however, that the complainant chose not to file a complaint against the respondents for their noncompliance with the order in Docket #FIC 2000-615 for the better part of two years and resurrected the issue at this time because she requires the same records for some other purpose.

 

12.  Section 1-206(b)(1), G.S., provides in relevant part that:

 

Any person . . . denied any . . . right conferred by the Freedom of Information Act may appeal therefrom to the Freedom of Information Commission, by filing a notice of appeal with said commission.  A notice of appeal shall be filed within thirty days after such denial . . . .

 

13.  Section 1-206(b)(1), G.S., clearly requires the filing of an appeal within 30 days of an alleged violation. In addition to the statutory requirement contained in 1-206(b)(1), G.S., reason and fairness, preclude the complainant from filing a complaint against the respondents beyond thirty days after March 18, 2002 (120 days after November 1, 2001), the date on which the respondents were ordered to comply.

 

14.  It is concluded therefore, that despite the respondents blatant disregard of the order in Docket #FIC 2000-615, the Commission lacks jurisdiction over that portion of the complainant’s appeal described in paragraph 5a, above.

 

15.  With respect to the complainant’s appeal described in paragraph 5b, above, it is found that sometime during the month of April 2004, the complainant made a request to the respondent comptroller for a copy of all legal bills submitted by Attorney Gould to the city through April 2004. 

 

16.  It is found that the respondent comptroller maintained that he was not aware of the complainant’s April request but provided the complainant, through counsel, with a redacted copy of the legal bills of Attorney Gould through September 2001, after he received notice of the complainant’s appeal in this matter. 

 

17.  It is found that under cover letter dated September 23, 2004, the respondent comptroller provided the complainant with another copy of the legal bills from Attorney Gould through September 2001, however, with fewer redactions (hereinafter “the records”).

 

18.  At the hearing on this matter, the complainant argued that she believed that additional records responsive to her April request had not been provided and that if the city could not find the additional records, it should be ordered to recreate them.  The complainant also argued that the records should not have been redacted.

 

19.  With respect to the legal bills provided to the complainant, the respondents represented and it is found, despite the poor track record of compliance with the complainant’s requests, that no additional records exist and that the complainant has been provided with all legal bills submitted by Attorney Gould to the city.

 

20.  With respect to the redactions to the legal bills, the respondent comptroller argued at the hearing on this matter that such redactions constitute or pertain to “strategy and negotiations” and are permissibly exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(4), G.S.

 

21.  The respondent comptroller submitted an unredacted copy of the records to the Commission for in-camera inspection.  Such records have been identified as in-camera record #s FIC 2004-350-1 through 2004-350-10.

 

22.  Section 1-210(b)(4), G.S., provides in relevant part that nothing in the FOI Act shall be construed to require disclosure of  “. . . [r]ecords pertaining to strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims or pending litigation to which the public agency is a party until such litigation or claim has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled . . . .”

 

23.  It is found that the subject redactions are of two kinds: the names of individuals with whom Attorney Gould conversed regarding certain cases; and the names of certain cases.

 

24.  It is found that none of the redactions pertain to strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims or pending litigation within the meaning of 1-210(b)(4), G.S.

 

25.  It is concluded therefore that the redactions are not permissibly exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(4), G.S., and the respondent comptroller violated the disclosure provisions of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., by failing to provide the complainant with an unredacted copy of the records. 

 

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

 

1.      The respondent comptroller shall forthwith provide the complainant with an unredacted copy of the legal bills of Attorney Gould described in paragraphs 16 and 17 of the findings, above.

 

2.      Henceforth, the respondent comptroller shall strictly comply with the disclosure provisions of the FOI Act.

 

3.      The complaint is hereby dismissed as against the respondents mayor, purchasing agency, planning and zoning department, city clerk, fire marshal, and chief, due to lack of jurisdiction over that portion of the complaint described in paragraph 5a, above.  However, the respondents’ complete failure to comply with the order in Docket #FIC 2000-615 (even after a dismissal of their appeal by the Superior Court), and their lack of care and concern with respect to their responsibility to do so, as evidenced by Attorney Vasko (their counsel) at the hearing on this matter, is disrespectful and extremely troubling and will not be tolerated by the Commission in the future.

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of April 27, 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:

 

Holly Blinkoff

200 East Lake Street

Winsted, CT 06098

 

Mayor, City of Torrington; Purchasing

Agency, City of Torrington; Planning

and Zoning Department, City of

Torrington; Comptroller, City of

Torrington; City Clerk, City of

Torrington; Fire Marshal, City of

Torrington; and Chief, Police

Department, City of Torrington

c/o Albert G. Vasko, Esq.

Corporation Counsel

140 Main Street

Torrington, CT 06790

 

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2004-350FD/paj/4/28/2005