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 2004-445

Trista Clyne, Administrative Assistant,

Board of Selectmen, Town of Branford;

Robert Moore, Director, Human Resources

Department, Town of Branford;

James Finch, Finance Director,

Town of Branford; and

Barbara T. Neal, Assessor,

Town of Branford,

 
  Respondents September 14, 2005
       

           

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 30, 2005, at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.   The matter was consolidated for hearing with docket #FIC 2004-458, Misty Williams and Dawn Massey v. Robert Moore, Director, Human Resources Department, Town of Branford; docket #FIC 2004-472, Misty Williams and Dawn Massey v. Trista Clyne, Administrative Assistant, Board of Selectmen, Town of Branford: and docket #FIC 2004-500, Misty Williams and Dawn Massey v. Trista Clyne, Administrative Assistant, Board of Selectmen, Town of Branford.  Without objection, Dawn Massey was added as a party complainant to each of the consolidated cases. 

 

            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.  By letter of complaint filed September 29, 2004, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging, among numerous other matters that were not pursued at the hearing on this complaint, that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by charging 50 cents for each side of a double-sided copy of a public record, and by improperly certifying copies of public records.   

 

            3.  It is found that on various occasions, including but not limited to August 30, August 31, September 7, September 16, September 17, and September 20, 2004, the respondents charged the complainants 50 cents for each side of a double-sided copy of public records.

 

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

 

      Any 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 Freedom of Information Act:

 

(1)  By an executive, administrative or legislative office of the state, a state agency or a department, institution, bureau, board, commission, authority or official of the state, including a committee of, or created by, such an office, agency, department, institution, bureau, board, commission, authority or official, and also including any judicial office, official or body or committee thereof but only in respect to its or their administrative functions, shall not exceed twenty-five cents per page; and

 

(2)  By all other public agencies, as defined in section 1-200, shall not exceed fifty cents per page.  …

 

5.  The complainant maintains that the word “page” in 1-212(a)(2), G.S., means a sheet of paper, not each side of a sheet, and that therefore the respondent is limited to charging no more than 50 cents for a double-sided copy; that is, 25 cents for each side of a double-sided copy.

 

            6.  The word “page” is not defined in the FOI Act.    

 

            7.  Section 1-1(a), G.S. provides:

 

     In the construction of the statutes, words and phrases shall be construed according to the commonly approved usage of the language; and technical words and phrases, and such as have acquired a peculiar and appropriate meaning in the law, shall be construed and understood accordingly.

 

8.  The American Heritage Dictionary (Second College Edition) defines page to mean:  

 

1.  One side of a leaf, as of a book, letter, newspaper, or manuscript, esp. the entire leaf; tearing out a page. 2.  The writing or printing on one side of a leaf …. [italics in original]

 

            9.   The American Heritage Dictionary definition indicates that the word page has at least two meanings.  When applied to the physical object, that is, the piece of paper, or the “leaf,” the word “page” encompasses the entire sheet.  However, when applied to the writing on the page, the word “page” means one side of the sheet.  For example, as conceded by the complainants, the “pages” in a book, letter, newspaper or manuscript are always numbered as one page constituting one side of a sheet.

 

            10.  It is concluded that the copying fees established by 1-212(a), G.S., apply to the copying of the writing on one side of a sheet.

 

11.  The Commission also takes administrative notice of the fact that commercial copying services typically establish separate charges for double-sided copies, and do not regard double-sided copies as a single copy subject to the charge for a single-sided copy.

 

            12.  It is concluded that the word “page” in 1-212(a) refers to the writing on one side of a sheet.

 

            13.  It is therefore concluded that the respondents did not violate 1-212(a) when they charged 50 cents for each side of a double-sided copy.

 

14.  The complainants also maintain that the certifications by the respondents of the records they received were improper.  The complainants assert that the certifications were improper because the respondents did not affix a raised seal on the copies, because the certifications were sometimes attached to the copies, rather than written directly on the copies, because the certifications did not state how many pages were contained in the copy or number the pages of the copies, and because the certifications did not describe, or did not accurately describe, the records certified beyond stating that they were true copies of the originals.    

 

15.  It is found that the respondents certified that the copies provided to the complainants were true copies of the originals.

 

16.  Section 1-212(e), G.S., provides:

 

     Except as otherwise provided by law, the fee for any person who has the custody of any public records or files for certifying any copy of such records or files, or certifying to any fact appearing therefrom, shall be for the first page of such certificate, or copy and certificate, one dollar; and for each additional page, fifty cents.  For the purpose of computing such fee, such copy and certificate shall be deemed to be one continuous instrument.

           

            17.  The word “certifying” is not defined in the FOI Act, and the requirements for “certifying any copy” or “certifying to any fact” are not contained in the FOI Act.

 

            18.  It is concluded that 1-212(e), G.S., only establishes a fee for certifying any copy of a public record, or certifying to any fact appearing in a public record, and does not set forth requirements for the form or content of such certifications.

 

19.  It is concluded that the complainant’s allegations regarding the impropriety of the certifications fails to allege a violation of the FOI Act.

 

 

            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 September 14, 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

 

Trista Clyne, Administrative Assistant,

Board of Selectmen, Town of Branford;

Robert Moore, Director, Human Resources

Department, Town of Branford;

James Finch, Finance Director,

Town of Branford; and

Barbara T. Neal, 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/2004-445FD/paj/9/15/2005