FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
James M. Findley,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2009-093
Pamela Law, Commissioner, State of
Connecticut, Department of Revenue Services;
and State of Connecticut, Department of
Revenue Services,
 
  Respondents June 25 , 2009
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 14, 2009, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  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 January 27, 2009, the complainant requested a copy of the “Department of Revenue Services A&R Union (P-5) layoff seniority list as of the January 8th[, 2009] ‘payroll confirm date’ as currently available through the Core[1] payroll system.”

 

3.      It is found that the respondents informed the complainant by letter dated February 2, 2009 that they were unable to comply with his request, described in paragraph 2, above, because “it involves the request of a record that does not exist.”

 

4.      It is found that by letter dated February 6, 2009, the complainant challenged the respondents’ claim that they were unable to comply with his request for records.  It is further found that the complainant provided the respondents with pages from the Core-CT payroll system website that included precise 13-step instructions on how to run the layoff seniority list from the respondents’ database on Core-CT.

 

5.      By letter dated February 14, 2009, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to provide the records he requested, described in paragraph 2, above.

 

6.      Section 1-200(5), G.S., in relevant part, defines “public records” as follows:

 

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, …whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-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., provides:  “Any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record.”

 

9.      It is concluded that the records requested by the complainant, to the extent that they exist, are public records within the meaning of 1-200(5), 1-210(a), and 1-212(a), G.S.

 

10.   Section 1-211(a), G.S., provides:

 

Any public agency which maintains public records in a computer storage system shall provide, to any person making a request pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, a copy of any nonexempt data contained in such records, properly identified, on paper, disk, tape or any other electronic storage device or medium requested by the person, if the agency can reasonably make such copy or have such copy made. 

 

11.     It is also found that the Core payroll system is an electronic database maintained by the respondents.  It is found that the data are public records maintained in a computer storage system, within the meaning of 1-211(a), G.S.

 

12.     The respondents claim that because they had not compiled a layoff seniority list for the A&R union from their payroll database, they were not obligated to create he list for the complainant. 

 

13.     The complainant, however, contends that, although the respondents did not maintain the precise report he requested, they did maintain as public records the electronic data from which such a report could easily be compiled.

 

14.     It is found that on February 9, 2009, the respondents received the instructions from the complainant on how to run the layoff seniority report.  It is found that the respondents compiled the report according to the instructions in 10 to 15 minutes and ultimately provided it to the complainant on February 28, 2009.   It is found that such report is responsive to the complainant’s request, described in paragraph 2, above.

 

15.     It is found that the complainant did not hear from the respondents after he sent them the 13-step procedure on February 6, 2009, described in paragraph 4, above, until February 28, 2009, when he received the records he requested.  It is found that the respondents ran the report on February 20, 2009 but did not send it to the complainant until February 26, 2009.  It is further found that the respondents did not claim that any of the information on the report was exempt from disclosure.

 

16.     The complainant claims, credibly, that the respondents failed to perform a diligent search for the record he requested, until he told them how to do so.  It is found that the complainant discovered the 13-step instructions on how to run the layoff seniority list through his personal search on the Core-CT website.  It is found that the complainant does not have any particular expertise in payroll, Core-CT, or the precise format of the information in the database. 

 

17.     It is found that the 13-step procedure that the complainant gave to the respondents should have been easy for the respondents to discover and was, in fact, easy to perform.

 

18.     It is found that, in light of the circumstances of this case, it was insufficient for the respondents to claim that they do not maintain the record requested by the complainant, because they did maintain the supporting data and it was a straightforward procedure to draw on such data to compile the record requested. 

 

19.     It is found, therefore, that the respondents could “reasonably” make the record requested by the complainant within the meaning of 1-211, G.S.

 

20.     It is found that drawing information from the electronic database in order to comply with the complainant’s request is analogous, conceptually, to pulling hard copies of  records from various files in a file drawer, stapling them together, and providing them to a complainant as a report.  It is found that the 13-step procedure that the respondents ultimately used to compile the record requested by the complainant did not require research, analysis, or the exercise of professional discretion.

 

21.     It is found, therefore, that the respondents failed to perform a diligent search for records responsive to the complainant’s request, described in paragraph 2, above. 

 

22.     It is concluded that the respondents violated the promptness provisions of the FOI Act by failing to provide such records promptly to the complainant.

 

23.     The Commission declines to consider the complainant’s request for the imposition of a civil penalty against the respondents.

 

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

1.      Henceforth, the respondents shall comply with the promptness requirements of the FOI Act.

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of June 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:

 

James M. Findley

414 S. Eagleville Road

Storrs, CT 06268

 

Pamela Law, Commissioner, State of

Connecticut, Department of Revenue

Services; and State of Connecticut,

Department of Revenue Services

c/o Louis P. Bucari, Esq. and

Shawn M. Sims, Esq.

Department of Revenue Services

Litigation Division – 19th Floor

25 Sigourney Street

Hartford, CT 06106

 

 

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2009-093FD/paj/6/29/2009

 

 

 

                                                                       

 

 



[1] It is found  that Core, or Core-CT, is Connecticut state government’s central financial and administrative computer system.  The system encompasses central and agency accounting functions, including human resource management systems such as payroll, time and labor, and human resources.