OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|against||Docket # FIC 2008-431|
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 2008-402, 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 27, 2008 (the “May 27th request”), 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 October 2006. Thereafter, I will decide which of the lists that identify all the properties Michael Milici inspected that I will need certified and which I will need plain copied.”
3. It is found that, by letter dated May 30, 2008, the respondents acknowledged the complainant’s request to inspect records, described in paragraph 2, above. It is also found that, the respondents sought clarification of the complainant’s May 27th request given that the complainant had submitted a similar request on May 12, 2008 (the “May 12th request”), stating: “I am hereby requesting 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.”
4. 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 an appointment to review records that they reasonably believed were responsive to the complainant’s May 12th request, described in paragraph 3, above.
5. It is found that, on June 25, 2008, the complainant inspected the records made available by the respondents, and during this inspection, the complainant located records responsive to the May 27th request, described in paragraph 2, above.
6. It is found that the complainant requested that certain records, responsive to the request described in paragraph 2, above, be copied and certified. It is further found that the respondents provided plain copies of such records, but were unable to certify such records at that time because the town employee who could properly certify the records would not be available until five days later, on June 30, 2008.
7. By letter dated and filed on June 26, 2008, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to provide her with certified copies of the records, described in paragraph 2, above.
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, 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.
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 (1) inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours . . . (3) 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 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.
12. It is found that on June 30, 2008, the respondent provided the complainant with certified copies of records 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 such request promptly.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. It is found that, between November 2007 and March 2008, the complainant submitted approximately 30 requests for records to the respondents. It is also found that, at the time of the request, described in paragraph 2, above, the respondents were experiencing staffing shortages.
16. It is found that the records responsive to the request described in paragraph 2, above, while limited to a one month period, were included in the response to the complainant’s May 12th request, described in paragraph 3, above, which request required the respondents to review records covering a seven-year period. It is found that, at the time the respondents received the request, described in paragraph 2, above, it was in the midst of responding to the request described in paragraph 3, above, as well as several other FOI requests made by the complainant.
17. 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.
18. It is found that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, the respondents’ provision of the requested records, described in paragraphs 2 and 12, above, was prompt within the meaning of §1-210(a), G.S.
19. 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