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 2004-500

Trista Clyne, Administrative Assistant,

Board of Selectmen,

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 2004-458, Misty Williams and Dawn Massey v. Robert Moore, Director, Human Resources Department, Town of Branford; and docket #FIC 2004-472, 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 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 respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing promptly to provide copies of public records.  The complainants requested the imposition of a civil penalty against the respondent.   


            3.  It is found that on October 15, 2004, the complainant Williams visited the respondent’s office, reviewed various records, and tagged the records that she wished to have copied.  It is found that the complainant’s request was for double-sided and certified copies.

 

4.  It is found that the respondent provided the requested copies on November 5, 2005. 

 

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 the records promptly.

 

            9.  It is found that the complainants have made over one hundred requests for copies of records from the respondent beginning in May of 2004 and continuing through the date of the request in this matter. 

 

10.  It is found that the respondent  spent approximately twenty-two hours on the complainants’ various requests during the period October 15, 2004 through November 5, 2004.

 

11.  It is found under the facts and circumstances of this case that the amount of time that the respondent devoted to fulfilling the complaints’ requests for copies of records satisfied the requirement that records be provided promptly. 

 

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

 

13.  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. 

 

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

 

            15.  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. …

 

16.  It is found that the complainants were frustrated by the delay in obtaining records from the respondent.  It is further found that, although most of this delay was caused by the volume and frequency of the complainants’ requests, the complainants did not take this appeal frivolously, without reasonable grounds, and 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.  While the complainants may have been justified in filing a complaint in order to preserve the Commission’s subject matter jurisdiction, no useful purpose was served by conducting an evidentiary hearing, other than to demonstrate the respondent’s good faith efforts to provide the records requested by the complainants as promptly as reasonably possible.

 

19.  The complainants moved for additional alternative relief, requesting affidavits from the respondent attesting to the nature and extent of her 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 penalty is 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

 

Trista Clyne, Administrative Assistant,

Board of Selectmen,

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/2004-500FD/paj/9/29/2005