FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Naimah Shabazz,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2009-345

Corporation Counsel, City of Hartford;

 and City of Hartford,

 
  Respondents May 12, 2010
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 3, 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.      By letter dated and filed June 11, 2009, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by not complying with a final Commission decision reached in a previous complaint that the complainant had filed against these respondents. 

3.      The Commission takes administrative notice of the final decision in Docket #FIC 2008-223; Naimah Shabazz v. Corporation Counsel, City of Hartford; and City of Hartford (Feb. 11, 2009).  In the final decision, the Commission ordered the respondents to conduct a prompt search for all of the records requested by the complainant; to provide access to or copies of such records to the complainant; to provide the complainant with an affidavit detailing those records that they do not maintain; and to arrange for an FOI Act training class to be conducted by the FOI Commission’s staff.

4.      In the instant case, the complainant contends that the respondents failed to comply with the Commission’s February 11, 2009 order by failing to provide her with copies or access to the following records:

 

a.       The timesheets for Ms. Nareida Perez;

b.      Records concerning notices from “Tax Serve”[1] to the respondent city, evidence that certain taxpayers’ delinquent taxes have been paid, which notices have not yet been updated in the respondent city’s electronic database;

c.       Records contained in notebooks in the possession of the Office of the City Tax Collector that evidence tax refunds from the City of Hartford to individuals who paid taxes in the City of Hartford, but subsequently moved;

d.       Probation evaluation forms from the Tax Office;

e.       Names of all employees supervised by Nerieda Perez from July 2003 through the present;

f.       Evaluations performed by Nerieda Perez from July 2003 through the present;

g.      Travel documents from the Procurement Office and Tax Office, including back-up documentation, advertising and attendees’ attendance confirmation, from January 2006 through the present; and

h.      Copies of postings of certain written policies on the Tax Office walls after January 31, 2008 (with the dates such policies were posted, if available).

 

5.      The complainant has requested that the Commission impose a civil penalty against the respondents.

6.      At the hearing in this matter, the respondents’ counsel represented that there were several unforeseen circumstances that had occurred since this Commission issued its February 11, 2009 order (the “disclosure order”).  It is found that, in response to the Commission’s disclosure order, the respondents delivered a box of responsive records to their counsel’s office for the complainant in this case.  It is found, however, that at the time of the delivery of said documents, the respondents’ counsel was very ill and, in fact, ended up hospitalized. 

7.      It is found that the box of responsive records remained in counsel’s office until such time as the respondents contacted the complainant to inquire as to whether she was satisfied with their response. 

8.      It is found that, by letter dated April 20, 2009, the respondents’ counsel corresponded with the complainant, seeking several clarifications with regard to the nature of the outstanding records to which the complainant wanted access.  It is further found that, in this correspondence, counsel informed the complainant that he had directed the Finance Department/Tax Office to “supply whatever disclosable documents they have” to the complainant. 

9.      Subsequent to the issuance of counsel’s letter, referred to in paragraph 8, above, the complainant filed the non-compliance complaint referred to in paragraph 2, above. 

10.  It is found that, by letter dated June 17, 2009, the respondents’ counsel again communicated with the complainant, indicating that the records in the possession of the City’s Finance Department, which would comprise “thousands of pages,” would be available for review by the complainant in less than a week. 

11.  It is found that, by letter dated June 23, 2009, the City’s Director of Human Resources corresponded with the complainant, indicating that his staff had compiled all of the responsive records in the department’s possession and that these records were available for review by the complainant. 

12.  It is further found that, on or around June 26, 2009, the respondents attempted to contact the complainant with the telephone number that they had in their possession for the complainant.  It is further found that, at or around this same time, the respondents realized that the complainant’s telephone number was connected to a voicemail box that was full.  It is found that the respondents attempted several times to contact the complainant by means of this telephone number but were unable to actually reach her.    

13.  It is found that, on or about June 29, 2009, the respondents wrote a letter to the complainant informing her that the telephone number that they had for her was not allowing them to leave a message.  It is found that, sometime after the June 29, 2009 letter, the complainant informed the respondents that she had not received the box of records, referred to in paragraph 6, above.

14.  It is found that, shortly after the Commission issued its disclosure order, the respondents made an employee in their Finance Department available to the complainant so that outstanding records—other than those that the respondents delivered to their counsel’s office, could be identified and provided to the complainant.  It is found that the complainant did communicate with this employee with regard to outstanding documents she wanted from the respondents’ Tax Office.  It is further found that the complainant did not communicate with this employee with regard to outstanding documents she wanted from the respondents’ Finance Department. 

 

15.  It is further found that the respondents made all of the notebooks referred to in paragraph 4.c, above, available to the complainant.  It is found that the complainant knew that she had access to these notebooks.  It is further found that, as of the date of the contested hearing on this non-compliance complainant—to wit, December 3, 2009, the complainant had yet to review any of these notebooks. 

 

16.  It is found that, by letter dated November 10, 2009, the complainant corresponded with the respondents’ counsel and informed him that, to date, she had only received one record from the respondents, which was responsive to her original FOI request.  It is further found that the complainant intimated that she had not received any notice that certain records had been compiled and were ready for her review. 

 

17.  Finally, it is found that the respondents remain ready and willing to provide the complainant with access to all of the records identified in paragraph 4, above.   They also acknowledge that, based on the Commission’s final decision, referred to in paragraph 3, above, they may not charge the complainant for any copies that she desires. 

 

18.   Based on the evidence presented in this case, it is concluded that both the complainant and the respondents should have been more diligent in communicating with each other. 

 

19.  It is further concluded, however, that the respondents did not violate the FOI Act as alleged in the non-compliance complaint. 

 

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.    

 

2.  The Commission recommends that, in very short order, the parties sit down together and work together to determine what records remain outstanding, what records are available for immediate review and what records need to be assembled. 

 

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

 

Naimah Shabazz

P.O. Box 1683

Hartford, CT 06144

 

Corporation Counsel, City of Hartford;

and City of Hartford

C/o John Rose, Jr., Esq.

Corporation Counsel’s Office

City of Hartford

550 Main Street

Hartford, CT 06103

 

 

____________________________

S. Wilson

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2009-345FD/sw/5/14/2010

 

 



[1] Counsel for the respondents represented at the contested hearing that Tax Serve is a contractor that has been hired by the City of Hartford to assist the city with the collection of delinquent taxes.