FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Steven Edelman,  
  Complainant  
  against  

Docket #FIC 2009-187

Donald Schultz, Building Official,

Town of Windham,

 
  Respondent March 24, 2010
       

           

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 20, 2009, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.   The matter was consolidated for hearing with docket #FIC 2009-182, Steven Edelman v. Jean De Smet, First Selectman, Town of Windham; docket #FIC 2009-183, Steven Edelman v. Donald Schultz, Building Official, Town of Windham; docket #FIC 2009-184, Steven Edelman v. Donald Schultz, Building Official, Town of Windham; docket #FIC 2009-185, Steven Edelman v. Donald Schultz, Building Official, Town of Windham; and docket #FIC 2009-186, Steven Edelman v. Donald Schultz, Building Official, Town of Windham

 

            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.  By letter of complaint filed April 2, 2009, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by denying his request to inspect public records, and requesting the imposition of a civil penalty against the respondent. 

           

3.  It is found that on many occasions, beginning at least as early as April 29, 1994 and continuing to the present, the complainant has requested access to or copies of records from the Town of Windham and its various officials, especially the town building department, concerning the complainant and certain alleged building code violations, and disputes arising out of that building code issue, including alleged criminal activity that was referred to the Windham State’s Attorney’s Office.

 

4.  It is found that, by letter dated March 10, 2009, the complainant asked that the respondent permit him to inspect “all letters, memoranda, correspondence and similar instruments to or from a State Building Inspector.”

 

5.  It is found that the respondent replied by letter dated March 16, 2009, indicating that the request was extremely broad; that the request did not include a time period for the records sought; that the request included a wide range of documents, including brochures and notices; and that he was not sure what the complainant meant by “instruments,” a term that ordinarily refers to land records.

 

6.  It is found that, by letter dated March 18, 2009, the complainant replied that his request was for records without regard to their date of origin, included any records of any kind, and included records in the custody of Windham legal counsel.

 

7.  It is found that, by letter dated March 31, 2009, the respondent replied that he had no dedicated file for the retention of State Building Inspector correspondence.  He also invited the complainant to visit the respondent’s offices and search for the records he was seeking.

 

8.  It is found that the complainant did not visit the respondent’s offices to search for the records he sought. 

 

9.  It is additionally found that the complainant did not direct any request directly to Windham legal counsel. 

 

10.  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.

 

            11.  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. 

 

12.  It is found that the complainant unreasonably did not limit the scope of his request in any way.

 

            13.  It is also found that the respondent does not have custody or control over records of Windham’s legal counsel.

 

14.  It is found that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, including the broadness of the request, and the long history of the complainant’s requests for related records, the respondent acted reasonably in offering the complainant the opportunity to inspect all his records and search for the records he had requested.

 

15.  It is therefore concluded that the respondent did not violate 1-210(a), G.S.

 

            16. In his post-hearing brief, the respondent requested that the Commission find that the complaint in this matter is without reasonable grounds and brought solely for the purpose of harassing the respondent.

 

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

 

If 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.  However, the respondent has not requested that a civil penalty be imposed against the complainant, or alleged that the complaint was brought frivolously, a necessary element to imposing a civil penalty under 1-206(b)(2), G.S.

 

19.  The Commission in its discretion therefore declines to address the request described in paragraph 16, above.

 

 

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

 

            1.  The complaint is dismissed.

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 24, 2010.

 

 

____________________________

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:

 

Steven Edelman

Route Fourteen

Windham Center, CT 06280

 

Donald Schultz, Building Official,

Town of Windham

C/o Richard S. Cody, Esq.

34 Church Street

P.O. Box 425

Mystic, CT 06355

 

and

 

C/o Russell N. Jarem, Esq.

Gordon, Muir & Foley, LLP

Ten Columbus Blvd.

Hartford, CT 06106

 

 

____________________________

S. Wilson

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2009-187FD/sw/3/26/2010