FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

Kelly Fisher and the First American

Real Estate Tax Service,

 
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2006-427
Tax Collector, Nichols Fire District,  
  Respondent March 14, 2007
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 14, 2006, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts 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), G.S.

 

2.  It is found that on occasions prior to August 8, 2006, the complainants requested that the respondent provide them with real estate tax billing and payment status information (hereinafter “requested records”) for particular parcels of land located in the respondent’s fire district.

 

3.  It is found that by letter received by the complainants on August 8, 2006, the respondent denied the complainants’ requests to provide the requested records on the ground that the respondent does “not supply escrow bills to third parties.” It is also found that the respondent attached to the letter of denial several uncashed checks from the complainants issued in payment of taxes to the respondent fire district on behalf of certain property owners, as well as a spreadsheet identifying the accounts and taxes that were related to the returned checks.

 

4.  By letter of complaint dated August 22, 2006, and filed with the Commission on August 24, 2006, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (hereinafter “FOI”) Act by denying the complainants access to the requested records on the ground that the respondent does “not supply escrow bills to third parties.”

 

 

 

5.  In their letter of complaint, the complainants specified that they now seek only the portions of the requested records that relate to the tax payments for those accounts for which the respondent returned the proffered, but uncashed, checks, as set forth in the spreadsheet, as described in paragraph 3, above.

 

6.  It is found that the respondent produces and maintains records that are responsive to those requested herein, as more fully described in paragraph 5 of the findings, above.  Specifically, the respondent maintains records containing real estate tax billing and payment status information for the particular parcels of land here at issue.

 

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 … receive a copy of such records in accordance with section 1-212.

 

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.

 

9.  During the hearing in this matter, for the first time, the respondent claimed that at the time of the complainants’ earliest requests, in April 2006, no records existed that were responsive to such request.

 

10.  It is found, however, that, whether or not the requested records, or the data that were to be contained therein, were in existence at the time of the complainants’ earlier requests, such records had been prepared, and were in existence, by the date of the respondent’s August 8, 2006 letter of denial.  In addition, it is found that, in denying the complainant’s requests, the respondent based his denial solely on the ground that he does “not supply escrow bills to third parties.”  Consequently, it is concluded that the claim described in paragraph 9 of these findings, above, has no merit under the facts as herein presented.

 

11.  The respondent also claims that he need not provide the records at issue because, under 12-130(a), G.S., a tax collector is merely obliged to:

 

… mail or hand to each individual from whom taxes are due a bill for the amount of taxes for which such individual is liable and shall attach thereto a statement of the year and amount of all back taxes for which such individual is liable.

 

The respondent’s contention presupposes that this statutory language implicitly repeals the disclosure provisions of the FOI Act, particularly 1-210(a), G.S., or somehow acts to supersede such provisions in the absence of any explicit language to that effect.

 

12.  It is concluded, however, that although 12-130(a), G.S., requires the distribution of certain tax information to certain persons by certain means, it does not also, by implication or otherwise, prohibit, restrict or diminish the public’s access rights under the FOI Act, in particular 1-210(a), G.S.

 

13.  It is also concluded that 12-130(a), G.S., does not act as an exemption to the disclosure of the records at issue, as provided within the terms of 1-210(a), G.S.

 

14.  It is therefore concluded that the respondent violated the FOI Act by denying the complainants access to the records at issue herein.

 

 

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

 

1.  Forthwith, the respondent shall provide the complainant with a copy of the records described in paragraph 5 of the findings, above, free of charge.

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 14, 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:

 

Kelly Fisher and the First American

Real Estate Tax Service

c/o Bonnie Pannhoff, Esq.

One First American Way

Mail Stop DFW 4-5

Westlake, TX 76262

 

Tax Collector,

Nichols Fire District

c/o Stephen R. Bellis, Esq.

The Pellegrino Law Firm

475 Whitney Avenue

New Haven, CT 06511

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

 

FIC/2006-427FD/paj/3/20/2007