FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Robin Elliott,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2008-627

Warden, State of Connecticut,

Department of Correction,

Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional

Institution; and State of Connecticut,

Department of Correction,

 
  Respondents July 1, 2009
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 14, and May 21, 2009 at which times the complainant and the 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 2008-507, Robin Elliott v. Commissioner, State of Connecticut, Department of Correction; Warden, State of Connecticut, Department of Correction, Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution; and State of Connecticut, Department of Correction; and Docket #FIC 2008-560, Robin Elliott v. John Sieminski, Warden, State of Connecticut, Department of Correction, Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution; and State of Connecticut, Department of Correction.

 

The complainant, who is incarcerated, appeared via teleconference, pursuant to the January 2004 memorandum of understanding between the Commission and the Department of Correction.  See Docket No. CV 03-0826293, Anthony Sinchak v. FOIC et al, Superior Court, J.D. of Hartford at Hartford, Corrected Order dated January 27, 2004 (Sheldon, J.).

 

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 August 21, 2008 the complainant made a request to the respondents pursuant to the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act that included the following:

 

a.       “On July 4, 2008, was there an emergency situation that existed at Corrigan-Radowski?”

 

b.      “Could you provide me with a list of staff and their assignments for that day, July 4, 2008?”

 

c.       “Could you provide me with a statistical breakdown of the rate of pay for staff which would outline overtime pay, time and a half and double time for holiday duties?”

 

d.      “Did staff participate in any special training courses [on July 4, 2008]?”

 

e.       “If staff participated in special training or any form of training, please name all staff whom participated, and afford me copies of the training stats.”

 

f.       “Please afford me copies of all training authorizations, cost of training to taxpayers, and all training personnel.”

 

g.      “On July 4, 2008 was Corrigan Institution placed in lock down status from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.?”

 

h.      “While the institution was on lock down for at least seven hours, did staff participate in a celebration of the 4th of July, including a cook out?”

 

i.        “Please note what items were served and at whose expense.”

 

j.        “Where there any off duty staff present at the cook out? If yes, how many and what where their names?”

 

k.      “Please estimate the total cost of the cook out; and provide me with the records of cost in an itemized list.”

 

l.        “Please afford me the names of the person who authorized the lock down and who authorized the cook out.”

 

3.      It is found that by letter dated September 2, 2008, the respondents acknowledged receipt of the complainants request and informed him that: the information he requested described in paragraphs 2a and 2b, above, is exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-210, G.S.; there are no records responsive to his request described in paragraph 2c, 2e, 2f and 2i through 2l, above; and that the FOI does not require a public agency to answer his questions described in paragraphs 2d, 2g and 2h, above.

 

4.      By letter dated August 20, 2008 and filed on September 24, 2008, the complainant appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondents violated the FOI Act by failing to comply with his records request.

 

5.      Section 1-200(5), G. S., provides:

 

“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 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:

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, (2) copy such records in accordance with subsection (g) of section 1-212, or (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 “[a]ny person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record.”

 

8.      It is found that the requested records, 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.

 

9.      With respect to the complainant’s question described in paragraph 2a, above, the FOI Act does not require a public agency to answer questions.

 

10.   With respect to the complainant’s request described in paragraph 2b, above, 1-210(b)(18)(G), G.S., provides in relevant part that:

 

[r]ecords, the disclosure of which the Commissioner of Correction . . . has reasonable grounds to believe may result in a safety risk, including the risk of harm to any person or the risk of an escape from, or a disorder in, a correctional institution or facility under the supervision of the Department of Correction or Whiting Forensic Division facilities. Such records shall include, but are not limited to . . . [l]ogs or other documents that contain information on the movement or assignment of inmates or staff at correctional institutions or facilities . . . .

 

11.   It is found that the records responsive to the complainant’s request described in paragraph 2b, above, constitute logs or other documents that contain information on the movement or assignment staff at correctional institutions or facilities and that the Commissioner of Correction has reasonable grounds to believe disclosure of such records may result in a safety risk, within the meaning of 1-210(b)(18)(G), G.S.

 

12.   It is concluded, therefore, that such records are permissibly exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(18)(G), G.S., and it is further concluded that the respondents did not violate the disclosure provisions of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., in this regard.

 

13.   With respect to the complainant’s request described in paragraph 2c, above, it is found that the respondents do not maintain any record of the statistical breakdown of the rate of pay for staff which would outline overtime pay, time and a half and double time for holiday duties.

 

14.   It is found that Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution was not locked down on July 4, 2008 and there was no staff training or a staff cook out on that date.

 

15.   It is found, therefore, that the respondents do not maintain any records responsive to the complainant’s request described in paragraphs 2d through 2l, above.

 

16.   Prior to the hearing in this matter, the respondents moved to have sanctions imposed against the complainant alleging that the complainant had taken this appeal for the sole purpose of harassing the respondents.

 

17.   Section 1-206(b)(2), G.S., provides in relevant part that: 

 

[i]f the commission finds that a person has taken an appeal under this subsection frivolously, without reasonable grounds and solely for the purpose of harassing the agency from which the appeal has been taken, after such person has been given an opportunity to be heard at a hearing conducted in accordance with sections 4-176e to 4-184, inclusive, the commission may, in its discretion, impose against that person a civil penalty of not less than twenty dollars nor more than one thousand dollars. 

 

18.   At the hearing on this matter, the complainant explained that he had been locked in his cell all day on July 4, 2008, and when he inquired as to the reason, he was told, by a correctional officer, that the entire prison had been locked down so that staff members could attend a training; however, he was later told that staff were not at a training but at a cook-out in celebration of the July 4th holiday.

 

19.   It is found that the complainant legitimately questioned the veracity of the respondents’ September 2, 2008 response to his request in light of what he had been told, as described in paragraph 17, above, by individuals he had reason to believe were well informed and were providing him with accurate information.

 

20.   It is found that the complainant has not taken this appeal frivolously, without reasonable grounds and solely for the purpose of harassing the respondents.

 

21.   The Commission therefore denies the respondents’ request for sanctions against the complainant.

 

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 July 1, 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:

 

Robin Elliott, #24941

Northern Correctional Institution

287 Bilton Road

P.O. Box 665

Somers, CT 06071

 

Warden, State of Connecticut,

Department of Correction,

Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional

Institution; and State of Connecticut,

Department of Correction

C/o Sandra A. Sharr, Esq.

Department of Correction

24 Wolcott Hill Road

Wethersfield, CT 06109

 

 

____________________________

S. Wilson

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2008-627FD/sw/7/7/2009