OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|David A. LeBlanc,|
|against||Docket #FIC 2004-246|
Town of Watertown,
|Respondent||May 11, 2005|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 9, 2004, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. The matter was consolidated for hearing with docket #FIC 2004-337, David A. LeBlanc v. Police Commission, Town of Watertown.
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. By letter dated and filed June 2, 2004, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to make the minutes of its May 12, 2004 meeting available within seven days of the meeting; failing to provide access to a copy of the rules and regulations manual issued to all new police officers; failing to promptly provide a copy of the police department log-in sheets for the respondent’s May 12 and 18, 2004 meetings; and requiring attendees to log in before being allowed into the meeting room in which the respondent conducts its meetings.
3. By letter dated June 8, 2004, the complainant amended his complaint to allege that the respondent also failed to make available the minutes of its May 18, 2004 meeting within seven days of that meeting.
4. At the hearing on this matter, the parties stipulated that the issue of the respondent’s requiring meeting attendees to log in was previously addressed in docket #FIC 2004-067, Robert A. LeBlanc v. Police Commission, Town of Watertown, in which a final decision was issued by the Commission on February 9, 2005. The parties agreed
to abide by the decision in FIC 2004-067, and the complainant withdrew that portion of his complaint in this matter.
5. Section 1-225(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that the minutes of the meetings of public agencies “shall be available for public inspection within seven days of the session to which they refer”
6. Section 1-210(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:
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, (2) copy such records in accordance with subsection (g) of section 1-212, or (3) receive a copy of such records in accordance with section 1-212.
8. Section 1-200(5), G.S., provides:
“Public records or files” means any recorded data or information relating to the conduct of the public's business prepared, owned, used, received or retained by a public agency, or to which a public agency is entitled to receive a copy by law or contract under section 1-218, whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.
9. It is found that all of the requested records in this matter are public records within the meaning of §§1-210(a) and 1-200(5), G.S.
10. At the hearing on this matter, the respondent stipulated that the minutes of its May 12 and 18, 2004 meetings had not been made available within seven days of those meetings, and that although copies had ultimately been provided to the complainant, they had been provided “very late.” The respondent also stipulated that it had not promptly provided a copy of the requested log-in sheets, which the complainant also subsequently received.
11. The respondent also represented through counsel at the hearing on this matter that delays in preparing minutes had been caused by the respondent’s practice of making verbatim transcripts of its meetings, and using those transcripts as minutes. Counsel represented that the respondent has abandoned its practice of using transcripts as minutes, and will in the future make minutes available within the time requirements of §1-225(a), G.S.
12. It is concluded that the respondent violated §§1-225(a) and 1-210(a), G.S., by failing to make the minutes of its May 12 and 18, 2004 meetings available within seven days of the meetings, and failing to promptly provide the complainant with copies of the requested log-in sheets.
13. With respect to the complainant’s allegation that he was denied access to inspect the police rules and regulations manual, it is found that the complainant wished to borrow a copy of the manual, bring it home to review, and then return it. The complainant specifically did not want a copy made for him.
14. It is found that nothing in §1-210(a), G.S., requires the respondent to lend the complainant a public record.
15. It is concluded that the respondent did not violate §1-210(a), G.S., by declining to lend the complainant a copy of the rules and regulation manual.
16. At the hearing on this matter, the complainant requested the imposition of a civil penalty against the respondent’s chairman, Thomas Durso, Town Council Chairman Robert Kane, and Town Manager Meredith Robson.
17. Section 1-206(b)(2), G.S., provides in relevant part:
… upon the finding that a denial of any right created by the Freedom of Information Act was without reasonable grounds and after the custodian or other official directly responsible for the denial has been given an opportunity to be heard at a hearing conducted in accordance with sections 4-176e to 4-184, inclusive, the commission may, in its discretion, impose against the custodian or other official a civil penalty of not less than twenty dollars nor more than one thousand dollars.
18. Neither the Town Council Chairman nor the Town Manager are respondents in this case, and consequently the complainant’s request for civil penalties to be imposed against them is denied.
19. It is found that the complainant has experienced significant frustration in obtaining minutes and the log-in sheets from the respondent within the time periods allowed by §§1-225(a) and 1-210, G.S. From the complainant’s point of view, he does not receive a response to his requests until he files a complaint with the Commission. However, the respondent offered a reasonable explanation for, and promised to cure, its delay in preparing minutes
20. With respect to the respondent’s delay in providing a copy of the log-in sheets, the respondent represented through counsel that the delay was caused by the failure of the chairman of the respondent to pass on the complainant’s request to the chief of the police department, who is the custodian of the record. The respondent offered no explanation for the chairman’s failure of the chief to pass on the complainant’s request.
21. The Commission is of the opinion that it would not be a good use of its resources to conduct a civil penalty hearing on the sole issue of whether there were reasonable grounds for the chairman of the respondent to fail to pass on the complainant’s request for log-in sheets to the chief of the police department.
22. The Commission in its discretion therefore declines to conduct a hearing for the purpose of considering a civil penalty against the respondent’s chairman. However, the Commission will take notice of its own decision in this matter, if future complaints are lodged against the respondent’s chairman.
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 strictly comply with the requirements of §§1-225(a), and 1-210(a), G.S.
2. The portion of the complaint regarding the respondent’s denial of the complainant’s request to borrow a copy of the police manual is dismissed.
3. Henceforth the respondent, through its chairman, shall ensure that records requests made to the respondent or the respondent’s chairman are promptly passed on to whoever of the respondent’s employees are the actual custodians of those records.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 11, 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:
Town of Watertown
c/o Paul R. Jessell, Esq.
680 Main Street
PO Box 9
Watertown, CT 06795
Petrea A. Jones
Acting Clerk of the Commission