FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Paul Sobel and Green and Gross, P.C.,  
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2004-471

Building Inspector, Town of Greenwich; and

Public Works Department, Building Inspection

Division, Town of Greenwich,

 
  Respondents  June 8, 2005
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 7, 2005, at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  For purposes of hearing, this matter was consolidated with Docket #FIC 2004-475, Paul Sobel, Joel Green and Green and Gross, P.C. v. Building Inspector, Town of Greenwich; and Public Works Department, Building Inspection Division, Town of Greenwich.

   

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

 

1.  The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-200(1), G.S.

 

2.  It is found that, on September 14, 2004, the complainant Sobel drove from Bridgeport to the offices of the respondents and arrived sometime between the hours of 12 noon and 2 P.M., at a time when some employees of the respondents were out of the office at lunch [hereinafter “lunchtime”].  It is further found that, at such time, he requested access to the building permit file for the construction of a new home at 536 River Road in Greenwich [hereinafter “the requested record”].  It is further found that the Greenwich Building Department employee who attempted to assist the complainant was courteous, but was unable to locate the requested record at such time.  It is also found that the complainant Sobel left his card with such employee and asked to be called when the requested record was located.

 

3.  It is found that, unbeknownst to the employee described in paragraph 2, above, at the time of the visit described therein, the requested record was kept in a separate locked file in the respondent building inspector’s office.  It is further found that the respondent building inspector was not in the office at the time of such visit.

 

4.   It is found that the requested record relates to a controversial building project in the town of Greenwich.  It is also found that the respondent building inspector maintains certain files that are the subject of controversy locked in his office to secure their contents in the event they are requested.  It is further found that normal procedure when such files are requested is to provide access, but to have an employee monitor any review so as to ensure that documents are not mislaid or discarded, either intentionally or unintentionally.  It is further found that, typically, at least one of several employees at the respondent department is available to grant access to the respondent building inspector’s locked files, but that no such employee was available during the lunchtime visit of the complainant described in paragraph 2, above.

 

5.  It is found that the complainant returned to his office in Bridgeport and that early that same afternoon, he received a telephone call from an employee of the respondents who informed him that the requested record was available for his review.   It is found that, at such time, the complainant Sobel requested that a copy of the requested record be sent to him free of charge in consideration of his thwarted visit, earlier in the day.  It is found that the complainant was informed that a copy of the requested record would be provided to him upon payment of the statutory fee for such copy. 

 

6.  It is found that, by letter dated September 16, 2004, the complainants requested that the respondent building inspector provide them with a copy of the requested record at no charge. 

 

7.  It is found that upon receiving the letter described in paragraph 6, above, the respondent building inspector telephoned the complainant Sobel, informed him that the respondents would not waive the copying fee, and that a copy of the requested record would be provided upon receipt of the statutory fee of $23.00 for the 46 pages contained in such record.  It is also found that the respondent building inspector suggested, as an alternative, that the complainants make an appointment to review the requested record at no charge.   

 

8.  By letter dated October 13, 2004, and filed on October 14, 2004, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information [hereinafter “FOI”] Act by:

 

(a)    not keeping and maintaining the requested record in an accessible place;

 

(b)    denying the complainants the opportunity to inspect the requested record during regular business hours at the time of the visit described in paragraph 2, above;

 

(c)    requiring an advance appointment to inspect the requested record.

 

   

 

9.  Section 1-210(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:

 

“[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 (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…Each such agency shall keep and maintain all public records in its custody at its regular office or place of business in an accessible place….”

 

10.  Section 1-212(a), G.S., provides, in relevant part:

 

“[a]ny person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record.   The fee for any copy provided in accordance with the FOI Act…shall not exceed fifty cents per page….”

 

11.  It is found that, by letter dated October 13, 2004, the complainants sent the respondents a check for $23.00, and that shortly thereafter, the respondents sent a copy of the requested record to the complainants.

 

12.  With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 8.a, above, it is found that the respondents keep on file and maintain the requested record in an accessible place.    Accordingly, it is concluded that the respondents did not violate the FOI Act, as alleged in the complaint. 

 

13.  With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 8.b, above, it is found that the complainants are entitled to inspect public records promptly during regular business hours.  It is further found that, while it is unfortunate that the requested record was not immediately available at the time of the visit described in paragraph 2, above, the respondents acted swiftly to contact the complainants after locating such record and to offer access and/or a copy thereto.   It is further found that, based upon the facts and circumstances of this case, the respondents promptly provided the complainants with an opportunity to inspect the requested record during regular business hours on September 14, 2004.   Accordingly, it is concluded that the respondents did not violate the FOI Act, as alleged in the complaint. 

 

14.  With respect to the allegation described in paragraph 8.c, above, it is found that the respondent building inspector did not require an advance appointment before providing access to the requested record.  Rather, it is found that respondent building inspector merely suggested that the complainants make an appointment to review the requested record.  There is no evidence in the record to suggest that review of the requested record was conditioned on making an appointment.   Accordingly, it is concluded that the respondents did not violate the FOI Act, as alleged in the complaint. 

 

            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 regular meeting of June 8, 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:

 

Paul Sobel and Green and Gross, P.C.

1087 Broad Street

Bridgeport, CT 06604-4231

 

Building Inspector, Town of Greenwich; and

Public Works Department, Building Inspection

Division, Town of Greenwich

c/o Aamina Ahmad, Esq.

Town Attorney’s Office

101 Field Point Road

Greenwich, CT 06830

 

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2004-471FD/paj/6/9/2005