FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Mark Waxenberg,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2007-650

Director of CT Operations,

Achievement First, Inc.,

 
  Respondent June 25, 2008
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 19, 2008, 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 2007-648, Mark Waxenberg v. Director of CT Operations, Achievement First, Inc.; and Docket #FIC 2007-649, Mark Waxenberg v. Director of CT Operations, Achievement First, Inc. 

 

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 November 7, 2007, the complainant requested copies of the following records from the respondent with respect to the Achievement First Bridgeport Charter School:  names of teachers providing instruction for 2007-2008; the grades assigned to such teachers; the present certification status of such teachers; the names and addresses of the Board of Directors for the 2007-2008 school year; and agendas and minutes of all Board of Directors meetings since June 1, 2007 (hereinafter “the requested records”). 

 

3.      By letter dated November 26, 2007 and filed November 28, 2007, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to provide the complainant with the requested records.  

 

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

 

[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 (1) inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours…or (3) receive a copy of such records in accordance with section 1-212.   

 

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

 

6.  It is found that the requested records are public records within the meaning of 1-210(a), G.S.

 

7.  It is found that the respondent provided the complainant with the requested agendas, minutes, and board member records on December 10, 2007. 

 

8.  It is found that, although the respondent maintained requested records related to teacher names, grades, and certifications, she was not sure of the accuracy of such records.  It is further found that the respondent therefore began the process of questioning teachers, asking for updated certifications, so that the response provided to the complainant would be accurate.

 

9.  It is found that, upon ensuring that the accumulated information was accurate, the respondent created a spreadsheet detailing the requested teacher names, grades, and certifications, and provided such spreadsheet to the complainant on January 18, 2008. 

 

10.  At the hearing in this matter, the complainant contended that he was satisfied that he had received all records he requested, and that the only issue for the Commission was one of promptness.  The complainant further contended that the Commission should impose a civil penalty upon the respondent. 

 

11.  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.

 

12.  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.

 

            13.  It is found that the respondent attempted to comply promptly with the complainant’s request during a busy time of the school year surrounding holiday breaks.  Nevertheless, based on the facts and circumstances of this case, it is concluded that the respondent violated the promptness requirements of 1-210(a), and 1-212(a), G.S., in this matter.

 

14.  With respect to the complainant’s request for the imposition of a civil penalty, 1-206(b)(2), G.S., provides, in relevant part:

 

…upon the finding that a denial of any right created by the Freedom of Information Act was without reasonable grounds and after the custodian or other official directly responsible for the denial has been given an opportunity to be heard at a hearing conducted in accordance with sections 4-176e to 4-184, inclusive, the commission may, in its discretion, impose against the custodian or other official a civil penalty of not less than twenty dollars nor more than one thousand dollars.

 

            15.  The Commission notes that the complainant did not request the imposition of a civil penalty in his complaint, and that therefore, the respondent was not on notice of his intent to request a civil penalty at the time of the hearing in this matter. 

 

16.  The Commission declines to convene another hearing in this matter to address the issue of a civil penalty.

 

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 comply with the promptness requirements of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S.

 

 

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 25, 2008.

 

________________________________

S. Wilson

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:

 

Mark Waxenberg

c/o Ronald Cordilico, Esq.

Connecticut Education Association

21 Oak Street, Suite 500

Hartford, CT 06106

 

Director of CT Operations,

Achievement First, Inc.

c/o Paul Guggina, Esq.

Tyler Cooper & Alcorn, LLP

City Place, 35th Floor

185 Asylum Street

Hartford, CT 06103

 

 

 

 

 

___________________________________

S. Wilson

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2007-650FD/sw/6/27/2008