FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Linda M. DiNapoli,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2009-012

Town Manager,  

Town of West Hartford,

 
  Respondent August 12, 2009
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 12, 2009, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. 

 

At the conclusion of the hearing in this matter, the hearing officer ordered the parties to file certain after-filed exhibits.  The Commission accepts the following after-filed exhibits, which have been marked as follows:

 

Complainant’s Exhibit B:  Letter, dated December 11, 2008, from Linda M. DiNapoli to Ron Van Winkle, date stamped “Received” by the West Hartford Town Clerk on December 11, 2008

 

Respondent’s Exhibit 3:  Affidavit of Ronald Van Winkle, dated May 14, 2009

 

Respondent’s Exhibit 4:  Affidavit of Essie S. Labrot, dated May 14, 2009

 

Respondent’s Exhibit 5:  Affidavit of Patience Haile, dated May 14, 2009

 

In response to the after-filed exhibits of the respondent, on May 19, 2009, the complainant requested that the hearing in this matter be re-opened.  Such request is hereby denied.

 

After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:

 

1.  The respondent is a public agency, within the meaning of 1-200(1), G.S.

 

2.  It is found that, on December 11, 2008, the complainant hand-delivered a written request to the respondent to inspect:

 

 (a)  “…any and all typed, hand written, dispatch logged and/or processed Electronically (including email) documents, memos, statements, reports, letters, notes and missives, having any reference to the matters referenced below.”

 

(b)  “Item #2 - All documents relating to The Hartford Insurance Group and ANY and ALL Insurance policies including but not limited to liability policies, annuity policies, health benefit policies issued by said Hartford Insurance Group on behalf of the Town of West Hartford for the period from 1/1/05 – 12/11/08.”

 

3.  By letter of complaint dated January 5, 2009, and filed January 6, 2009, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to respond to the request described in paragraph 2, above.

 

            4.  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.

 

5.  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.

 

            6.   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.”

 

7.  It is found that the records described in paragraph 2, above, 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. 

 

8.  At the hearing in this matter, the complainant testified, and it is found, that she attempted to file the request, described in paragraph 2, above, with the respondent, on December 11, 2008, but that no one was available in the respondent’s office at that time to receive it.  It is found that the complainant, therefore, filed the request, described in paragraph 2, above, with the town clerk, whose office is right next door to the respondent’s office, and asked the town clerk to personally deliver such request to the respondent. 

 

9.  The respondent testified, at the hearing in this matter, that he never received the request, described in paragraph 2, above, and only learned of such request after he received notice from the Commission of the complaint filed against him.  However, it is found, based upon the after-filed exhibits, that such request was, in fact, received in the respondent’s office by his executive assistant.  It is also found, though, that the executive assistant apparently filed such request inadvertently in a correspondence file in her desk drawer before giving it to the respondent to review, and that the respondent, therefore, did not see the request, or have an opportunity to respond to it, until he received notice of the complaint from the Commission.

 

10.  The respondent next contended, at the hearing in this matter, that after becoming aware of the request, described in paragraph 2, above, he could not respond to it, because such request would require research, is overly broad, and is overly burdensome, in that it would require him to search every file in all nine departments in the town of West Hartford for every record “relating to” the Hartford Insurance Group.   However, the Commission notes that a fair reading of the complainant’s letter is a request for “any and all insurance policies issued to the town by the Hartford Insurance Group, and any correspondence relating to such policies filed with such policies.”

 

11.  It is found that the respondent retains two policies issued by the Hartford Insurance Group:  a student accident policy and a criminal infidelity insurance policy (bond).  At a minimum, it is found that the respondent should have provided the complainant with a copy of the two policies identified above.

 

12.  Based upon the facts and circumstances of this case, it is concluded that the respondent violated the provisions of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., by failing to promptly comply with the request for copies of the insurance policies, described in paragraphs 2 and 11, above.

 

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

 

1.  The respondent shall forthwith provide the complainant with copies of the insurance policies described in paragraphs 2 and 11, above. 

 

2.  To the extent the complainant seeks records in addition to those described specifically in paragraph 11, above, the Commission suggests that she attempt to communicate more cooperatively with the respondent with regard to a description of such records.

 

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of August 12, 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:

 

Linda M. DiNapoli  

C/o Eric H. Rothauser, Esq.

Bonee Weintraub LLC

29 South Main Street, Suite 330

West Hartford, CT 06107

 

Town Manager, 

Town of West Hartford  

C/o Patrick G. Alair, Esq.

West Hartford Corporation Counsel

50 South Main Street

West Hartford, CT 06107

 

 

____________________________

S. Wilson

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2009-012FD/sw/8/14/2009