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 2004-458

Robert Moore, Director,

Human Resources Department,

Town of Branford,

 
  Respondent September 28, 2005
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 30, 2005, at which time the complainants 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 2004-445, Misty Williams and Dawn Massey v. 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; 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.   The case caption has been amended accordingly.

 

            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 of complaint filed October 4, 2004, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging, among numerous other matters that were not pursued at the hearing on this complaint, that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to provide copies of public records, and by failing to properly certify copies of public records.  The complainants requested the imposition of a civil penalty against the respondent.   

 

            3.  It is found that on various occasions, beginning on September 3, 2004 and continuing through at least September 20, 2004, the complainants requested copies of records of payments and related records from the respondent.

 

4.  It is found that the respondent replied promptly to each of the complainants’ requests, and each time provided all the responsive records that existed. 

 

5.  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.

 

6.  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.” 

 

7.  It is found that the records provided to the complainants are public records within the meaning of 1-200(5) and 1-212(a), G.S.

 

8.  The complainants maintain that the respondent failed to provide all the records that were requested.

 

            9.  However, it is found that the respondent provided all the records he maintains that are responsive to the complainants’ requests.          

 

10.  The complainants also alleged that the respondent’s certifications were improper.  The issue of improper certifications is fully decided in docket #FIC 2004-445, Misty Williams and Dawn Massey v. 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, which was consolidated with the instant matter, and will not be discussed herein. 

 

            11.  It is concluded that the respondent did not violate 1-212(a), G.S.

 

            12.  The respondent moved for the imposition of a civil penalty, pursuant to 1-206(b)(2), G.S.

 

            13.  Section 1-206(b)(2), G.S., provides in relevant part:

 

If the commission finds that a person has taken an appeal under this subsection frivolously, without reasonable grounds and solely for the purpose of harassing the agency from which the appeal has been taken, after such person 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 that person a civil penalty of not less than twenty dollars nor more than one thousand dollars. …

 

            14.  It is found that the complainants produced virtually no credible evidence in support of their claim.  Rather, this complaint appeared to be based on the complainants’ belief, unsubstantiated by the evidence on the record, that they had been, or would be, deceived by the respondent, and that the respondent “should” have records that he in fact reasonably did not ever create.

 

15.  It is concluded that the complainants took this appeal frivolously and without reasonable grounds.

 

16.  However, it is found that the complainants did not take this appeal solely for the purpose of harassing the respondent.

 

            17.  The respondent’s motion for the imposition of a civil penalty is therefore denied.

 

            18.  However, it is found that the necessity of hearing of this complaint constituted a misuse of the commission's administrative process.  Most of the evidence offered by the complainants demonstrated little more than microscopic or imagined inconsistencies in the actions of the respondent, and most of the complainants’ argument demonstrated a misapplication of the relevant law.     

 

19.  The complainants moved for additional alternative relief, requesting affidavits from the respondent attesting to the nature and extent of his searches for the records requested by the complainant.

 

            20.  The complainants also moved for the imposition of civil penalties against the respondent.     

 

21.  It is found, however, that no relief or civil penalties are appropriate, given the conclusion that the respondent did not violate 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 dismissed.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of September 28, 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

 

Robert Moore, Director,

Human Resources Department,

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/2004-458FD/paj/9/28/2005