FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Halina Trelski,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2007-118

Board of Education,

Middletown Public Schools,

 
  Respondent September 12, 2007
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 30, 2007, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. For purposes of hearing, this matter was consolidated with Docket #FIC 2007-097, Halina Trelski v. Board of Education, Middletown Public Schools; Docket #FIC 2007-098, Halina Trelski v. Board of Education, Middletown Public Schools; Docket #FIC 2007-119, Halina Trelski v. Board of Education, Middletown Public Schools; and Docket #FIC 2007-138, Halina Trelski v. Policy Committee, Board of Education, Middletown Public Schools.

 

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 January 20, 2007 and received by the respondent on January 22, 2007, the complainant reiterated her written request of January 10, 2007 for certified copies, which are the records at issue in Docket #FIC 2007-097, Halina Trelski v. Board of Education, Middletown Public Schools (hereinafter “Docket #FIC 2007-097”).

 

3.      The findings of fact and conclusions of law concerning the records at issue in Docket #FIC 2007-097 are stated in the Final Decision in that matter and are incorporated herein as if fully stated.

 

4.      It is found that by the same letter dated January 20, 2007 and received by the respondent on January 22, 2007, the complainant made a written request for certified copies of the following documents:

 

a.       Minutes of January 9, 2007 Middletown Board of Education Regular Meeting.

 

b.      Minutes of all Policy Committee meetings between November 30, 2006 and January 10, 2007.

 

c.       Middletown Board of Education 2007 Schedule for Regular Meetings.

 

d.      Middletown Board of Education current Policy regarding procedures in place for handling complaints.

 

e.       Middletown Public School current Regulation regarding procedures in place for handling complaints.

 

f.        Middletown Board of Education current Policy #1330.

 

g.       Current Regulation #1330.

 

h.       Middletown Board of Education current Policy #5114.

 

i.         Current Regulation #5114, and any document containing information by whom this current Regulation #5114 was approved.

 

j.        Any documents containing information that Wesleyan University paid rental fee and charges for use of Middletown’s School District facilities…to hold there Prospect Project in school years 2004-2005, 2005-2006, 2006-2007, and that they paid Liability Insurance.

 

k.      Copy of 2005 Diversity Enhancement Report – Page 24.

 

l.         Any, and all documents (including e-mail) containing the names of the program “Prospect Project,” or containing information about the Prospect Project, [including] copies of all letters and e-mail sent, or received by any Middletown Public School’s employees regarding the Prospect Project.

 

5.      It is found that by letter dated January 30, 2007, the respondent replied to the complainant’s written request, directing her to the respondent’s website for the records described in paragraph 4.a, f, g, h, i, and k, above. With regard to the records described in paragraph 4.b, the respondent instructed the complainant to contact the superintendent’s office to review the records. With regard to the records described in paragraph 4.d, e, and j, above, the respondent’s letter stated that there were no documents responsive to the complainant’s request. The respondent did not address the complainant’s request for the record described in paragraph 4.c, above. The respondent declined to provide copies of the records described in paragraph 4.l, above, because the complainant had previously requested those records and the respondent had previously provided all documents responsive to the request.

 

6.      It is found that, by letter dated February 25, 2007, the complainant “again” asked the respondent to provide “certified copies” of the documents requested in paragraph 4.l, above (emphasis in original).

 

7.      By letter dated February 18, 2007 and filed February 23, 2007, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondent’s failure to provide certified copies of the requested records violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act.

 

8.   Section 1-200(5) G.S., defines “public records or files” as:

 

Any recorded data or information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, received or retained by a public agency, … whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.

 

9.    Section 1-210(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that: 

 

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.

 

10.  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.”

 

11.   It is found that, to the extent they exist, the records described in paragraph 4, above, are public records within the meaning of  1-200(5) and 1-210(a), G.S.

 

12.  It is found that the respondent offered to provide the complainant with a certified copy of the existing records described in paragraph 4, above, on April 18, 2007.

 

13.  It is found that the respondent had not provided a certified copy of the existing records described in paragraph 4, above, prior to April 18, 2007.

 

14.  It is found that the respondent’s proposed method of certification was to attach to the several copies a single letter signed by the assistant to the superintendent certifying that the records were true copies of the records described within.

 

15.  It is found that the complainant refused to accept the records certified in the manner described in paragraph 14, above, because they would not be certified in the manner she preferred.

 

16.   At the hearing in this matter, the respondent’s witness testified that on May 17, 2007, the complainant received from the respondent a duplicate copy of the records previously offered to her on April 18, 2007.

 

17.   It is found that the records described in paragraph 4.d, e, and j, above, do not exist.

 

18.   It is concluded that the respondent did not violate the FOI Act by not providing the complainant with the records described in paragraph 4.d, e, and j, above.

 

19.   It is found that the records provided to the complainant on May 17, 2007 contained the records described in paragraph 4.h, i, and l, above.

 

20.   It is found that the respondent attached to the stack of records provided to the complainant on May 17, 2007 a letter signed by the assistant to the superintendent of schools, who stated, “I hereby certify that the enclosed documents are true copies of the documents requested.”

 

21.   At the hearing in this matter, the complainant objected that the respondent’s letter was insufficient to certify the copies in proper form.

 

22.   The word “certified” is not defined in the FOI Act, and the requirements for providing a “certified copy of a public record” pursuant to 1-212(a), G.S.,  are not contained in the FOI Act.

 

23.   It is concluded that the FOI Act does not set forth requirements for the form or content of such certifications. See Docket #FIC 2004-445, Misty Williams and Dawn Massey v. Town of Branford et al. (Sept. 14, 2005).

 

24.   The American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition (2000) defines to “certify” as “to confirm formally as true, accurate, or genuine.”

 

25.   It is concluded that the respondent provided the complainant with a certified copy of the records described in paragraph 4.h., i, and l, above.

 

26.   At the hearing in this matter, the assistant to the superintendent testified that the complainant’s confusing, numerous, and frequent requests for documents from the respondent impeded the respondent’s ability to comply more promptly with the complainant’s request for all the records in this matter.

 

27.   The assistant to the superintendent testified further that any delay in complying with the complainant’s request for the records described in paragraph 4, above, was reasonable, due to the extensive search that thorough compliance required.

 

28.   Based on the facts and circumstances of this case, it is found that the respondent promptly complied with the request described in paragraph 4.h, i, and l,  above, and did not violate the FOI Act with respect to said records.

 

29.   It is found that the documents provided to the complainant on May 17, 2007 did not contain the records described in paragraph 4.a, b, c, f, g, and k, above.

 

30.   It is concluded that the respondent violated the FOI Act by failing to provide the complainant with a certified copy of the records described in paragraph 4.a, b, c, f, g, and k, above.

 

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

 

1.       The respondent shall provide the complainant with certified copies of the records described in paragraph 4.a, b, c, f, g, and k, of the findings, above. 

 

2.      If the respondent does not maintain the records described in paragraph 1 of the order, then the respondent is ordered to so inform the complainant by affidavit.

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of September 12, 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:

 

Halina Trelski

49 Summer Hill Road

Middletown, CT 06457

 

Board of Education,

Middletown Public Schools

c/o Rebecca R. Santiago, Esq.

Shipman & Goodwin LLP

One Constitution Plaza

Hartford, CT 06103-1919

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2007-118FD/paj/9/19/2007