FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Clarence Jennings,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2006-227

Scott Centrella, Selectman,

Town of Easton,

 
  Respondents January 10, 2007
       

                                                                                                           

            The above-captioned matter was consolidated for hearing with Docket # FIC 2006-228, Clarence Jennings v. William Kupinse, First Selectman, Town of Easton, and Docket # FIC 2006-229, Clarence Jennings v. Robert Lessler, Selectman, Town of Easton. All three matters were heard as contested cases on August 3, 2006, at which time the complainant and the respondent in the above captioned matter appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.

           

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 April 10, 2006, the complainant made a request to the respondent for three categories of records: a) 255 pages of exhibits dated or filed on March 10, 2003, and 158 pages of pleadings dated or filed on February 10, 2004, both the exhibits and pleadings in federal litigation captioned U.S. v. Beckman Coulter; b) a status report from attorney Barbara Kelly, dated March 10, 2003, mailed to the insurance carrier on the “USA compaction matter”, as well as a fax from attorney Greg Coffey, dated June 7, 2004, concerning EPA clean-up costs; and finally c) all billing invoices to the Town of Easton from January 2003 through April 2006 from Barbara Kelly, Wilson Elser, and Kostin Ruffkess, LLC (all of these records together being the “requested records”).  

 

3.  By letter dated April 25, 2006, the respondent stated that he did not “personally have any of the documents requested in my possession.” The respondent added that he would “make inquiry so that all requested information properly within the scope of the FOIA in the Town’s possession is made available to you.” He added: “I know that Bill Kupinse takes his obligations and those of the Town pursuant to The Freedom of Information Act very seriously.” The respondent’s letter included a standard notation showing that a copy was also mailed to “William Kupinse, First Selectman”.

 

4.  By letter dated May 1, 2006, and filed with the Freedom of Information Commission (“Commission” or sometimes “FOIC”) on May 2, 2006, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent’s failure to provide the requested records violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”).

 

5.  Sections 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., state, respectively, in relevant parts:

 

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. 

 

 

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

 

6.  It is found that the respondent is a Selectman of the Town, and as such, does not have any administrative responsibilities. He has no office at Town Hall, is not present at Town Hall on a daily basis, and has no responsibility for maintaining records of the Town. Moreover, it is found that the respondent did not maintain in his personal possession any of the requested records. 

 

7.  It is also found that Mr. William Kupinse is the First Selectman of the Town of Easton, and in this capacity, he exercises administrative functions on behalf of the Town. It is further found that the respondent referred the complainant’s request to the First Selectman.

 

8.  The Commission has recently on at least two occasions reviewed the responsibilities of the chief administrative officer of a town to arrange for the production of public records maintained by agencies for which he is responsible. Docket #FIC 2005-367, Susan Friello v. Mayor, Town of East Haven; Docket #FIC 2005-431, Stephen Whitaker v. Jim Lash, First Selectman, Town of Greenwich; and Board of Selectman, Town of Greenwich. Both cases concluded that a Mayor or First Selectman had a duty to direct the complainant to the custodian of the requested records or forward the complainant’s request to the appropriate agency. These two recent decisions each cited Docket #FIC 90-337, Richard R. Lindquist v. Dean, Medical School, University of Connecticut Health Center (finding that the Chief Executive Officer of the University of Connecticut Medical School violated the FOI Act by failing to arrange prompt access to records of departments that are ultimately accountable to the Chief Executive Officer), and Docket #FIC 88-462, Kris Cieplak and Concerned Citizens for Clean Air v. Mayor, City of Ansonia (finding that it is reasonable for members of the public seeking several types of public records from a city to request them from the city's chief executive officer and expect to be directed to the appropriate record locations, and concluding that the chief executive officer violated the FOI Act by failing to provide access to records of attorneys' fees).

 

9.  It is concluded that, based upon the facts and circumstances of this case, the respondent, as a Selectman, did not violate 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S.

 

            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 January 10, 2007.

 

________________________________

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:

 

Clarence Jennings

71 Hall Road

Easton, CT 06612

 

Scott Centrella, Selectman,

Town of Easton

c/o Ira W. Bloom, Esq.

PO Box 777

27 Imperial Avenue

Westport, CT 06881-0777

 

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

 

FIC/2006-227FD/paj/1/16/2007