FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Dawn Massey,        
  Complainant  
  against   Docket # FIC 2008-149
Anthony DaRos, First Selectman, Town of
Branford; Gale Plancon, Interim Assistant
Administrator, Board of Selectmen, Town of
Branford; and Board of Selectmen, Town
of Branford,
 
  Respondents February 25, 2009
       

 

            The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on January 30, 2009, at which time the complainant and respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  For purposes of hearing, the above captioned matter was consolidated with Docket # FIC 2008-402, Dawn Massey v. Assessor, Town of Branford; and Office of the Assessor, Town of Branford; and Docket # FIC 2008-431, Dawn Massey v. Assessor, Town of Branford; and Office of the Assessor, Town of Branford.

 

            After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:

 

1.   The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-200(1), G.S.

 

2.      It is found that, by letter dated February 6, 2008, the complainant made a request to the respondents for “the opportunity to view all of the lists that identify all the addresses of the properties regarding Michael Milici’s inspections under Vendor Number 54235 – for all inspections performed by Mr. Milici during the month of September 2006.”

 

3.      It is found that, by letter dated February 8, 2008, the respondents acknowledged the complainant’s request to inspect the records, described in paragraph 2, above, stating:  “A review of our records will be conducted to locate any documents that may be responsive to your request.  You will be notified once the review is complete and the documents, if any, are available.”

 

4.      Anticipating that her “FOI request will be ignored,” the complainant appealed to this Commission, by letter dated and filed on March 6, 2008, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to comply with the request described in paragraph 2, above.  The complainant also requested the imposition of civil penalties against the respondents.

 

5.      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, 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 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 (1) inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours . . . (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 “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 respondents maintain the records, described in paragraph 2, above, and that such records are public records and must be disclosed in accordance with 1-200(5), 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., unless they are exempt from disclosure.

 

9.      It is found that, by letter dated April 24, 2008, the respondents informed the complainant that the records, described in paragraph 2, above, were available for inspection in the Town of Branford’s Finance Department, during regular business hours. 

 

10.  It is found that, sometime during the first week of May, 2008, the complainant inspected the records made available by the respondents.  It is also found that, once the complainant viewed the records, she then requested copies of some of the records she inspected, which copies were provided to the complainant at no charge.  It is found that such records are responsive to the request described in paragraph 2, above.  At the hearing in this matter, however, the complainant claimed that the respondents failed to respond to the request, described in paragraph 2, above, promptly.

 

11.  With respect to the complainant’s claim that the records, described in paragraph 2, above, were not provided to her “promptly,” the Commission has held that the meaning of the word “promptly” is a particularly fact-based question.  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. 

 

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.  The Commission takes administrative notice of the testimony pertaining to the issue of  promptness presented in the following contested cases: Docket # FIC 2008-078, Dawn Massey v. Anthony DaRos, First Selectman, Town of Branford; Gale Plancon, Interim Assistant Administrator, Board of Selectmen, Town of Branford; and Board of Selectmen, Town of Branford; Docket # FIC 2008-081, Dawn Massey v. Anthony DaRos, First Selectman, Town of Branford; Gale Plancon, Interim Assistant Administrator, Board of Selectmen, Town of Branford; and Board of Selectmen, Town of Branford; Docket  # FIC 2008-193, Dawn Massey v. Anthony DaRos, First Selectman, Town of Branford; and Board of Selectmen, Town of Branford; and Docket # FIC 2008-194, Dawn Massey v. Anthony DaRos, First Selectman, Town of Branford; and Board of Selectmen, Town of Branford

 

14.  In addition, the Commission takes administrative notice of the multitude of records requests filed with the respondents, as well as the multitude of corresponding appeals filed by the complainant with the FOI Commission against the respondents, between 2004 and 2008.

 

15.  It is found that, between November 2007 and March 2008, the complainant submitted approximately 30 requests for records to the respondents.  In addition, it is found that, at the time of the request, described in paragraph 2, above, the respondents were experiencing staffing shortages.

 

16.  It is found that, with respect to the request described in paragraph 2, above, the respondents diligently attempted to provide a complete and prompt response to the complainant.

 

17.  It is found that the complainant had so many requests and complaints pending against the respondents that the respondents could not reasonably have responded any earlier.

 

18.  It is found that there was no undue delay in obtaining the records, described in paragraph 2, above, because any delay was caused by the volume and frequency of the complainant’s requests for records, and the difficulty in satisfying the complainant.

 

19.  It is found that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, the respondents’ provision of the requested records, described in paragraphs 2, 9 and 10, above, was prompt within the meaning of 1-210(a), G.S.

 

20.   It is concluded, therefore, that the respondents did not violate the FOI Act as alleged in the complaint.

 

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

                                                                       

1.      The complaint is hereby dismissed.

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of February 25, 2009.

 

 

____________________________

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:

 

Dawn Massey

c/o Misty Williams

225 Stony Creek Road

Branford, CT 06405

 

Anthony DaRos, First Selectman, Town of Branford; Gale Plancon, Interim Assistant Administrator, Board of Selectmen, Town of Branford; and Board of Selectmen, Town

of Branford

c/o William H. Clendenen, Jr., Esq.

Clendenen & Shea, LLC

400 Orange Street

New Haven, CT 06511

 

 

 

 

____________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

 

 

FIC/2008-149FD/paj/3/3/2009