FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Bernard Bewry,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2006-444

Chief, Police Department,

City of Hartford,

 
  Respondent August 22, 2007
       

           

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 4, 2007, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.   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), G.S.

 

2.  By letter of complaint filed September 1, 2006, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that he had been “experiencing difficulties in obtaining” records from the Hartford Police Department, and that he hadn’t received the records he had requested.

 

            3.  It is found that the complainant made an August 8, 2006 written request for records to the respondent for the following records:

 

Any and all records or information pertaining to my (Bernard Bewry, also known as Anthony Pearl) hospitalization and arrest throughout my stay in Mount Sinai Hospital from September 6 through September 14, 1986.

 

4.  It is found that the respondent provided all the records in its possession that were responsive to the request on January 10, 2007.

 

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 1-210(a), G.S., provides 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. 

 

7.  Section 1-212(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that “[a]ny person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record.” 

 

8.  It is concluded that the requested records are public records within the meaning of 1-200(5) and 1-210(a), G.S.

 

            9.  The complainant contends that the records were not provided promptly.

 

10.  The meaning of the word “promptly” is a particularly fact-based question that has been previously addressed by the FOI Commission.  In Advisory Opinion #51, In the Matter of a Request for Declaratory Ruling, Third Taxing District of the City of Norwalk, Applicant (Notice of Final Decision dated January 11, 1982) the Commission advised that the word “promptly” as used in 1-210(a), G.S., means quickly and without undue delay, taking into consideration all of the factors presented by a particular request.  The Commission also gave the following guidance:

 

The Commission believes that timely access to public records by persons seeking them is a fundamental right conferred by the Freedom of Information Act.  Providing such access is therefore as much a part of their mission as their other major functions.  Although each agency must determine its own set of priorities in dealing with its responsibilities within its limited resources, providing access to public records should be considered as one such priority.  Thus, it should take precedence over routine work that has no immediate or pressing deadline.

 

11.  The advisory opinion goes on to describe some of the factors that should be considered in weighing a request for records against other priorities:  the volume of records requested; the time and personnel required to comply with a request; the time by which the person requesting records needs them; the time constraints under which the agency must complete its other work; the importance of the records to the requester, if ascertainable; and the importance to the public of completing the other agency business without the loss of the personnel time involved in complying with the request.        

 

12.  It is found that the detective assigned to locate the requested records received the complainant’s request on September 1, 2006.

 

13.  It is found that the requested records were difficult to locate.  The detective assigned to locate the records looked first in the major crimes division archives.  The area was difficult to search, and the detective requested and received assistance.  Not finding the records, she then searched all of the department’s archives, again obtained assistance, and again was unable to locate the records.  Ultimately, as a last resort, she searched the archives in the City of Hartford’s civil litigation office, where she located the requested records in the records of a civil suit filed by the complainant against the city.

 

14.  It is found that the detective conducted a diligent and honest search for the requested records, and found them in an unlikely location.

 

15.  It is concluded under the circumstances of this case that the records were provided promptly within the meaning of 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 dismissed.

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of August 22, 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:

 

Bernard Bewry, #132415

Cheshire Correctional Institution

900 Highland Avenue

Cheshire, CT 06410

 

Chief, Police Department,

City of Hartford

c/o Helen Apostolidis, Esq.

550 Main Street

Hartford, CT 06103

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2006-444FD/paj/8/22/2007