FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Charlie Santiago Zapata,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2005-128

Chief, Police Department,

City of Bridgeport,

 
  Respondent October 11, 2005
       

 

The above-captioned matter was consolidated for hearing with Docket # FIC 2004-534, also captioned Charlie Santiago Zapata v. Chief, Police Department, City of Bridgeport. Both matters were heard as contested cases on August 19, 2005, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaints. The complainant, who is incarcerated, appeared via teleconference, pursuant to the January 2004 memorandum of understanding between the Commission and the Department of Correction.  See Docket No. CV 03-0826293, Anthony Sinchak v. FOIC et al, Superior Court, J.D. of Hartford at Hartford, Corrected Order dated January 27, 2004 (Sheldon, J.). 

 

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)(A), G.S.

 

2.  It is found that, by letter dated June 9, 2004 which included an attached application form, the complainant made a request to the respondent for six categories of records: a) “All Transfer Records of Physical Evidence”; b) “All Laboratory Examination Forms”; c) “The Inventory of Property seized without a search warrant for Item #24 (Blk. Knit Ski Mask w/ blood like stains)”; d) “The Inventory of Property Seized without a search warrant for ‘item # 29’ (4 cannisters [sic] w/ spent bullets)”; e) “Records on whom took evidence out of the Property Room, when evidence was taken out, and when the evidence was brought back to the Property Room”; and f)”the Crime Scene Flow sheet for ‘Item 24’ (1-Blk- Knit Ski Mask w/ blood like stains)”, (all together, the “requested records” or the “records”). 

 

3.  A series of additional letters followed from the complainant to the respondent, culminating in a February 15, 2005 letter from the complainant to the respondent, which again, requested the records.

 

4.  By letter dated March 8, 2005, and filed with the Freedom of Information Commission (“Commission”) on March 21, 2005, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent’s failure to respond to his requests and provide the requested records violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”).

 

5.  Prior to the August 19, 2005 hearing, counsel to the respondent, by letter dated July 11, 2005, provided complainant: a) for the second time, with property receipts which indicated that the property listed on the receipts was checked into the property room on March 17, 1993; b) additional pages from the Property Log Book, which indicated who signed out evidence listed on the property room receipts, and the dates evidence was signed out and returned; and c) also for a second time, the inventory of property seized without a warrant for item # 29 (4 canisters with spent bullets). Counsel to the respondent also stated in her July 11, 2005 letter that “[n]o requests for examination of physical evidence have been filed in this case”.

 

6.  Pursuant to Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies 1-21j-38, a late filed exhibit dated August 29, 2005 was admitted into evidence after the close of the hearing, without objection. For purposes of this matter, counsel for the respondent stated that the archive file for the complainant’s case did not include copies of the three records described at paragraph 2c, d, and f, above. Moreover, said counsel for the respondent reviewed the files of the trial court, which also did not include these three records. Finally, said counsel for the respondent contacted the State’s Attorney’s office, believing that the three records described at paragraph 2c, d, and f, above, would be kept in its file. Because an appeal of the criminal conviction is pending, the State’s Attorney’s office only grants access to its file to counsel of record. Said counsel for the respondent has communicated with counsel for the complainant in his criminal appeal, so that counsel for the complainant can provide assistance to the complainant to obtain a copy of the three records described at paragraph 2c, d, and f, above. 

 

7.  Section 1-210(a), G.S., states in relevant part:

 

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 (1) inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours, (2) copy such records in accordance with subsection (g) of section 1-212, or (3) receive a copy of such records in accordance with section 1-212. (emphasis added)

 

 

8.  Section 1-212(a), G.S., states in relevant part:

 

Any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record. (emphasis added)

 

9.  It is found that the requested records are “public records” within the meaning of 1-210(a), G.S.

 

10.  It is found that the respondent was not prompt responding to the complainant’s records request, providing records in July 2005, as set forth at paragraph 5, above, that were originally requested in June 2004, as set forth at paragraph 2, above.

 

11.  It is also found that the respondent ultimately provided to the complainant the requested records that were maintained or kept on file by the respondent, as set forth at paragraph 5, above. All of these records, except the pages from the Property Log Book (see paragraph 5b, above), had been previously provided to the complainant.

 

12.  It is finally found that the three records described at paragraph 2c, d, and f, above, are not maintained or kept on file by the respondent. Counsel for the respondent has gone beyond the requirements of the FOIA in her efforts to assist the complainant, searching for the requested records in court files and inquiring at the State’s Attorney’s office.

 

13.  It is concluded that respondent violated the requirements of 1-212(a), G.S., by failing to provide copies of records to the complainant “promptly”.

 

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

 

1.      Henceforth, the respondent shall provide requested records promptly.

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of October 11, 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:

 

Charlie Santiago Zapata, #207172

Cheshire Correctional Institution

900 Highland Avenue

Cheshire, CT 06410

 

Chief, Police Department,

City of Bridgeport 

c/o Melanie J. Howlett, Esq.

Assistant City Attorney

999 Broad Street, 2nd floor

Bridgeport, CT 06604

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2005-128FD/paj/10/13/2005