OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|against||Docket # FIC 2008-402|
Assessor, Town of Branford; and
Office of the Assessor, Town of Branford,
|Respondents||April 8, 2009|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on January 30, 2009 and March 3, 2009, at which times 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 2008-149, 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; 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 May 12, 2008, the complainant made a request to the respondents for “the opportunity to view the Assessor’s records of all the lists of addresses assigned to Michael Milici for inspection, including new construction – from June 1, 2001 through the date I am given the opportunity to view all such records. Thereafter, I will decide which of the lists of addresses assigned to Michael Milici I will need certified and which I will need plain copied.”
3. It is found that, by letter dated May 16, 2008, the respondents acknowledged the complainant’s request to inspect the records, described in paragraph 2, above, stating: “The Town will conduct a review of its records to attempt to locate documents responsive to your request. You will be notified once the review is complete and the documents are available.”
4. By letter dated and filed on June 12, 2008, the complainant appealed to this Commission, 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 June 20, 2008, the respondents asked the complainant to contact the Town of Branford Assessor’s Office “to schedule a date and time to review the address lists referenced in your request.”
10. It is found that the respondents understood the request, described in paragraph 2, above, to be a request to view the lists of properties actually inspected by Mr. Milici (as opposed to merely assigned), during the stated time periods. It is further found that such lists were attached to check requests submitted by Mr. Milici for inspections performed. Celeste Fisher, the associate assessor for the town assigned to respond to the request, described in paragraph 2, above, testified, and it is found that, at the time she was responding to such request, she knew of no address lists retained by the respondents, other than the lists attached to the check requests.
11. It is found that on June 25, 2008, and June 30, 2008, the complainant inspected the records made available by the respondents, and based on these inspections, the complainant requested certified copies of certain records. It is also found that, upon her inspection of such records, the complainant informed the respondents that the records provided were “incomplete” but provided no explanation as to how or why the records were “incomplete.”
12. It is found that the respondents misunderstood the request, described in paragraph 2, above, and that the complainant was actually seeking different lists, copies of some of which she had previously obtained from the respondents years before. It is further found that, as of June 25, 2008, the complainant was aware of the misunderstanding, yet failed to inform the respondents of such misunderstanding. Rather, at the hearing in this matter, the complainant claimed that the respondents failed to respond to the request, described in paragraph 2, above, promptly.
13. It is found that, at no time before the January 30, 2009 hearing (the “January 30th hearing”) did the complainant explain to the respondents that she was seeking different lists than the ones provided to her for inspection on June 25, 2008.
14. At the January 30th hearing, the complainant finally provided the respondents with copies of certain lists she had previously obtained from the respondents, for their reference, and explained that these were the lists she was looking for, in response to the request described in paragraph 2, above.
15. It is found that, upon hearing the complainant’s testimony and receiving the lists, described in paragraph 14, above, the respondents, after the January 30th hearing, were finally able to locate and retrieve additional records responsive to the complainant’s request, described in paragraph 2, above.
16. It is found that the additional records, described in paragraph 15, above, were no longer maintained in the Assessor’s Office. Rather, it is found that such records were stored in several boxes located in a locked closet on a different floor in the town of Branford’s Town Hall and that only a few town employees had access to that closet. It is further found that such boxes contained many records pertaining to past FOI requests and appeals involving the complainant and the respondents. It is also found that Ms. Fisher was not involved in responding to such prior FOI requests, on behalf of the respondents.
17. It is found that the respondents compiled over 100 pages of additional records in response to the complainant’s request, described in paragraph 2, above, which they immediately made available to the complainant before the March 3, 2009 hearing.
18. 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.
19. It is found that the complainant intentionally and unreasonably failed to relay information to the respondents that would have assisted the Town in locating records responsive to the request, in paragraph 2, above, in a more timely fashion. It is further found that any delay in obtaining such records was caused by the complainant’s own such behavior.
20. It is found that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, the respondents’ provision of the requested records, described in paragraphs 2, 10 and 15, above, was prompt within the meaning of §1-210(a), G.S.
21. 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 special meeting of April 8, 2009.
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:
225 Stony Creek Road
Branford, CT 06405
Assessor, Town of Branford; and
Office of the Assessor, Town of Branford
C/o William H. Clendenen, Jr., Esq.
Clendenen & Shea, LLC
400 Orange Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Acting Clerk of the Commission