FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Misty Williams and Dawn Massey,  
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2004-442
Jill Wood, Assistant to Assessor, Town of Branford,  
  Respondent July 27, 2005
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 26, 2005, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  At the hearing, the hearing officer granted Dawn Massey party status and the case caption was modified accordingly.  For purposes of hearing, contested cases, docket #s FIC 2004-476, Misty Williams and Dawn Massey v. Jill Wood, Assistant to Assessor, Town of Branford, FIC 2004-510, Misty Williams and Dawn Massey v. Jill Wood, Assistant to Assessor, Town of Branford and FIC 2004-544, Misty Williams and Dawn Massey v. Jill Wood, Assistant to Assessor, Town of Branford were consolidated with the above-captioned case.

                             

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 by letters dated August 28, 2004 through September 7, 2004, the complainants made eight requests to the respondent asking to be provided with certified letters indicating the identity of the individual who inspected/appraised the following properties, and the date such individual inspected the property:

 

i)    7 Sybil Creek Place  – inspection for the 2003 Grand List;

ii)   225 Stony Creek Road – inspection for the 2003 Grand  

List;

iii)   23 Sybil Creek Place  – inspection for the 2003 Grand List;

iv)   23 Sybil Creek Place  – inspection for the 2004 Grand List;

v)    16 Sybil Creek Place  – inspection for the 2002 Grand List;

vi)   11 Sybil Creek Place– inspection for the 2002 Grand List;

vii)   25 Sybil Creek Place  – inspection for the 2002 Grand List; and

viii)  13 Sybil Creek Place  – inspection for the 2002 Grand List.

 

3.  It is found that by letters dated September 3, 3, 3, 3, 9, 8, 10, and 8, 2004, respectively, the respondent, through Trista Clyne, Administrative Assistant to the First Selectman, acknowledged receipt of the requests, and indicated in each response that the Town of Branford (“town”) is not required to provide such a letter.

 

4.  It is also found that by letters dated September 8, 9, 10 and 11, 2004, the complainants made four requests to the respondent, rephrasing their requests and asking to be provided with “a certified copy on paper of the Town’s record” that states: the identity of the individual who inspected/appraised the following properties, and the date such individual inspected the property:

 

i)    225 Stony Creek Road  – inspection for the 2003 Grand List;

ii)   7 Sybil Creek Place – inspection for the 2003 Grand  

List;

iii)   23 Sybil Creek Place  – inspection for the 2003 Grand List; and

iv)   23 Sybil Creek Place  – inspection for the 2004 Grand List.

 

5.  It is found that by letters dated September 14, 2004, the respondent, through Trista Clyne, acknowledged receipt of the requests, and indicated in each response that the town did not have any documents responsive to the requests. 

 

6.  It is also found that by letters dated September 13, 14, 15 and 16, 2004, the complainants made four requests to the respondent, again requesting to be provided with “a certified copy on paper of the Town’s record” that states the identity of the individual who inspected/appraised the following properties, and the date such individual inspected the property:

 

i)   16 Sybil Creek Place – inspection for the 2002 Grand  

List;

ii)   11 Sybil Creek Place  – inspection for the 2002 Grand List;

iii)   25 Sybil Creek Place  – inspection for the 2002 Grand List; and

iv)  13 Sybil Creek Place  – inspection for the 2002 Grand List.

 

7.  It is found that by letters dated September 17, 2004, the respondent, through Trista Clyne, acknowledged receipt of the requests, and indicated in each response that the town was conducting a review of its records and would notify the complainants once such review was completed.

 

8.  By letter of complaint dated September 21, 2004, and filed with the Commission on September 27, 2004, the complainants appealed, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to comply with their requests as described in paragraphs 2, 4 and 6, above.  The complainants requested that civil penalties be imposed upon the respondent.

 

   9.  Section 1-210(a), G.S., provides 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 … (3) receive a copy of such records in accordance with section 1-212.  [Emphasis added].

 

10.  Section 1-212(a), G.S., further provides that: “[A]ny person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record”.

 

 11.  With respect to the requests as described in paragraph 2, above, it is found that the respondent does not “maintain or keep on file”, within the meaning of 1-210(a), G.S., any letters indicating the identity of the individual who inspected/appraised the properties in question, and the date such properties were inspected.  In addition, the FOI Act does not require that the respondent create letters that do not already exist in order to respond to a request.   

 

12.  Consequently, it is concluded that the respondent’s response, as described in paragraph 3, above, that the town was not required to provide such a letter, was adequate and did not violate the complainant’s rights as set forth in 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S. 

 

 13.  With respect to the requests as described in paragraph 4, above, it is found that as of the date of receipt of such requests the respondent maintained or kept on file at least two records that are responsive to such requests.  Those two records constitute public records within the meaning of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., and were identified at the hearing in this matter as Complainants’ Exhibit H (a copy of a field card) and Respondent’s Exhibit 1 (a copy of a list indicating properties Mike Milici was assigned to inspect).  Both Complainants’ Exhibit H and Respondent’s Exhibit 1 are responsive to the complainants’ request for records concerning 225 Stony Creek Road and the property inspection for the 2003 Grand List.

 

14.  It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., by failing to promptly provide the complainants with a certified copy of Complainants’ Exhibit H and Respondent’s Exhibit 1.

 

15.  With respect to the requests as described in paragraph 6, above, it is unclear from the record whether records responsive to the complainants’ requests exist.

 

16.  Consequently, it is concluded that to the extent the respondent maintains records responsive to the requests and has not provided the complainants with a certified copy of such records, the respondent violated 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S.  However, to the extent that no records exist that are responsive to the complainants’ requests, the respondent did not violate 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S.

 

17.  The complainants’ request to consider the imposition of a civil penalty is denied.

 

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

 

1.  With respect to the request as described in paragraph 2 of the findings above, the complaint is hereby dismissed.

 

2.  With respect to the request as described in paragraph 4 of the findings above, forthwith, the respondent shall:

 

a)                            provide the complainants with a certified copy of Complainants’ Exhibit H and Respondent’s Exhibit 1, if such certified copies have not yet been provided;

 

b)                            search the town’s records wherever located and provide the complainants with a certified copy of any additional existing records found, (including, but not limited to records similar to field cards and lists such as Complainants’ Exhibit H and Respondent’s Exhibit 1) whether such records are stored electronically or in paper format, concerning the following properties, and which records identify in any way a person(s) or business entity that was either assigned to, or did inspect the following properties: 7 Sybil Creek Place (inspection for the 2003 Grand List), 23 Sybil Creek Place (inspection for the 2003 Grand List), and 23 Sybil Creek Place (inspection for the 2004 Grand List);

 

 

c)                            if no records are found, the respondent shall forthwith, provide the    

complainants with an affidavit indicating that after a complete and thorough search of the town’s records no records responsive to the complainants’ requests, except Complainants’ Exhibit H and Respondent’s Exhibit 1, were found.  Such affidavit shall indicate the nature and extent of the respondent’s search.

 

3.  With respect to the request as described in paragraph 6 of the findings above, forthwith, the respondent shall:

 

a)      search the town’s records and provide the complainants with a certified copy of any existing records found (including, but not limited to records similar to field cards and lists such as Complainants’ Exhibit H and Respondent’s Exhibit 1), whether such records are stored electronically or in paper format, concerning the following properties, and which records identify in any way a person(s) or business entity that was either assigned to, or did inspect the following properties: 16 Sybil Creek Place (inspection for the 2002 Grand List), 11 Sybil Creek Place (inspection for the 2002 Grand List), 25 Sybil Creek Place (inspection for the 2002 Grand List), and 13 Sybil Creek Place (inspection for the 2002 Grand List);

 

b)   if no records are found, the respondent shall forthwith, provide the complainants with an affidavit indicating that after a complete and thorough search of the town’s records no records responsive to the complainants’ requests were found.  Such affidavit shall indicate the nature and extent of the respondent’s search.  

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of July 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:

 

Misty Williams

225 Stony Creek Road

Branford, CT 06405

 

Dawn Massey

225 Stony Creek Road

Branford, CT 06405

 

Jill Wood, Assistant to Assessor,

Town of Branford

c/o Elizabeth P. Gilson, Esq.

383 Orange Street

New Haven, CT 06511

 

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2004-442FD/paj/8/3/2005