FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Daniel D. Tompkins,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2008-453

Mayor, City of Groton; and City

of Groton,

 
  Respondents June 10, 2009
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 25, 2008, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  The case caption has been amended to reflect the accurate names of the respondents.  For purposes of hearing, the matter was consolidated with Docket #FIC 2008-371; Daniel Tompkins v. Mayor, City of Groton; and Committee of the Whole, City of Groton; and Docket #FIC 2008-396; Daniel Tompkins v. Committee of the Whole, City of Groton.

 

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

 

2.  It is found that, by letter dated June 9, 2008, the complainant requested that the respondents provide him with copies of itemized statements of accounts, relevant to the Groton Fire Department, for services rendered by the law firm of Ryan & Ryan, and also for services rendered by Jon Jones & Associates, a consulting firm specializing in fire safety issues (hereinafter “the requested records”). 

 

3.  It is found that, by letter dated June 13, 2008, the respondents denied the request described in paragraph 2, above. 

 

4.  It is found that, by letter dated June 17, 2008, the complainant renewed his request for copies of the requested records.   

 

5.  By letter dated July 7, 2008, and filed with the Commission on July 9, 2008, the complainant alleged that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (hereinafter “FOI”) Act by denying him copies of the requested records.   

 

6.  Section 1-200(5), G. S., provides, in relevant part:

 

“Public records or files” means 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 … whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, taped-recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.

 

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

 

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 inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours or to receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-212….  

 

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

 

9.  It is found that the respondents keep on file the requested records.  It is concluded that such records are public records, within the meaning of 1-200(5) and 1-210(a), G. S.

 

10.  After the hearing in this matter, the respondents submitted copies of the requested records for in camera inspection.  Such in camera documents shall be designated as IC-2008-453-1 through IC-2008-453-63, inclusive, for identification purposes.

 

            11.  The respondents contend that the requested records are exempt from mandatory disclosure by virtue of 1-210(b)(4), G. S.

           

12.  Section 1-210(b)(4), G. S., permits the nondisclosure of “[r]ecords pertaining to strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims or pending litigation to which the public agency is a party until such litigation or claim has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled.”

 

13.  Section 1-200(8), G. S., defines a pending claim as: “a written notice to an agency which sets forth a demand for legal relief or which asserts a legal right stating the intention to institute an action in an appropriate forum if such relief or right is not granted.”

 

            14.  It is found that the complainant is the president of the firefighters union in the City of Groton.  It is found that, since 2006, such union and the respondents have been engaged in interest arbitration, and that such arbitration was pending at the time of the hearing in this matter.  It is further found that Ryan & Ryan represents the respondents in such arbitration and that Jon Jones & Associates is retained by the respondents as a potential expert in the arbitration matter.    

 

15.  It is concluded that the arbitration matter described in paragraph 14, above, is a “pending claim” to which the respondents are parties within the meaning of 1-200(8), G. S.

 

16.  The respondents contend that disclosure of the requested records would reveal issues researched and strategy formed in connection with the pending claim described in paragraphs 14 and 15, above.             

 

17.  Upon careful review of the in camera documents, it is found that the following portions of such documents constitute records pertaining to strategy and negotiations with respect to the pending claim:  IC-2008-453-38 (lines marked 3 through 7 on the page, except dollar amounts) and IC-2008-453-40 (lines marked 9 and 11 on the page, except dollar amounts). It is concluded that such portions are exempt from mandatory disclosure by virtue of 1-210(b)(4), G. S.

 

18.  It is concluded that the respondents did not violate the FOI Act by withholding the portions of the in camera documents described in paragraph 17, above, from the complainant.

     

19.  Upon careful review of the remainder of the in camera documents, it is found that they do not constitute records pertaining to strategy and negotiations with respect to the pending claim, within the meaning of 1-210(b)(4), G. S.

 

20.  It is concluded that the respondents violated the FOI Act by withholding the remainder of the in camera documents from the complainant. 

 

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

 

1.  Forthwith, the respondents shall provide the complainant with a copy of the in camera documents, free of charge.

 

2.  In complying with paragraph 1 of the order, the respondents may withhold the portions of the in camera documents described in paragraph 17 of the findings, above.   

 

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 10, 2009.

 

____________________________

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:

 

Daniel D. Tompkins

30 South Prospect Street

Groton, CT 06340

 

Mayor, City of Groton; and City

of Groton

C/o David A. Ryan, Jr., Esq. and

Susan M. Wright, Esq.

Ryan & Ryan, LLC

900 Chapel Street, Suite 621

New Haven, CT 06510

 

 

____________________________

S. Wilson

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2008-453FD/sw/6/16/2009