FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
|In the Matter of a Complaint by
|Docket #FIC 2007-054
Town of Beacon Falls,
|July 11, 2007
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 24, 2007, at which time the complainant and 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 the complainant’s family became aware that a certain parcel of property, adjacent to their property, was in the process of being acquired by the construction company Old Turnpike Road Associates, which company had also obtained a zoning permit with respect to that property.
3. It is found that the complainant’s father initially attempted to obtain a copy of the zoning application submitted by Old Turnpike Road Associates to the respondent and after several failed attempts, asked the complainant to seek a copy of the application.
4. It is found that after the complainant made several failed attempts to obtain a copy of Old Turnpike Road Associates’ zoning application through the town clerk, he made a written request for it to the chairman of the respondent by letter dated December 15, 2006.
5. By letter dated January 25, 2006 [sic] and filed on January 26, 2007, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to comply with his request for a copy of the zoning application of Old Turnpike Road Associates [hereinafter “requested record”].
6. Section 1-210(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that:
[e]xcept 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.
7. Section 1-212(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that “any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record. . . .”
8. It is found that the requested record is a public record within the meaning of §§1-200(5) and 1-210(a), G.S.
9. It is found that after the complainant received no response to his written request, the complainant asked his attorney to obtain a copy of the requested record, who also failed in his attempts.
10. It is found that the complainant also tried to address the lack of response to his records request at one of the respondent’s meetings. It is found, however, that the respondent’s counsel advised the respondent not to respond to the complainant at that meeting because the complainant had appealed the respondent’s decision to approve Old Turnpike Road Associates’ zoning application and the complainant would receive a copy of the requested record from his attorney through that appeal process.
11. At the hearing on this matter, the respondent’s counsel conceded that the complainant should have gotten the requested record at the time he requested it and that the delay was inexcusable. However, as he explained, because the respondent’s filing system is flawed, the application was misfiled and had only recently been relocated. The respondent’s counsel also explained that an individual had been hired to improve the filing system of the town’s boards and commissions and expected that such a delay in compliance with a request for a record would not occur again.
12. It is found that the respondent, through its counsel, apologized to the complainant and provided him with a copy of the zoning application at the hearing on this matter.
13. It is found, however, that while the complainant graciously accepted the respondent’s apology and the copy of the requested record, it’s all too little too late considering the time and money the complainant spent trying to obtain the requested record over the past five months and the fact that his family eventually bought the property, making the requested record needless.
14. It is found that the respondent failed to promptly provide the complainant with a copy of the requested record and consequently, it is concluded that it violated §§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. Henceforth the respondent shall strictly comply with the provisions of §§1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S.
2. The Commission notes the unconscionable struggle the complainant underwent only to finally obtain a copy of the requested record at the contested case hearing and commends him for his perseverance. Further, had the complainant requested the imposition of a civil penalty, the Commission would have strongly considered such request.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of July 11, 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:
52 North Pease Road
Woodbridge, CT 06525
Town of Beacon Falls
c/o Thomas P. Byrne, Esq.
790 Farmington Avenue
Farmington, CT 06032
Petrea A. Jones
Acting Clerk of the Commission