FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Donal C. Collimore,   
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2009-760
Planning and Zoning Commission,
City of Bridgeport; and
City of Bridgeport,
 
  Respondents September 8, 2010
       

 

            The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 13, 2010, at which time the complainant and 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 2009-759; Donal C. Collimore v. City Attorney, City of Bridgeport; and City of Bridgeport; Docket # FIC 2009-761; Regensburger Enterprises v. Planning and Zoning Commission, City of Bridgeport; and City of Bridgeport; Docket # FIC 2009-762; Donal C. Collimore v. Records Official, City Council, City of Bridgeport; and City Council, City of Bridgeport; Docket # FIC 2009-763; Donal C. Collimore v. Mayor, City of Bridgeport; and City of Bridgeport; Docket # FIC 2009-764; Donal C. Collimore v. Ethics Commission, City of Bridgeport; and City of Bridgeport.

 

 

            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 November 25, 2009, the complainant requested the following from the respondents:

 

[a]  any and all documents pertaining to the appointment of all sitting planning & zoning commissioners including but of course not limited to any Ethics Committee reports and/or findings;

 

[b]  dates of all zoning map change meetings;

 

[c]  records of who attended each meeting;

 

[d]  records of who and when they reviewed the tapes pertaining to any meetings they missed;

 

[e]  correspondence including but not limited to emails to and from anyone including but not limited to Chris Caruso, Jack Hennessy, Michele Lyons, Adam Wood, Stephen Tyliszczak, Dawn Twistol, Andrew Nunn, Ed Schmidt, Anne Phillips, Mel Riley, Dennis Buckley, William Minor, Lynn Haig, Donald Eversley, Greg Conti, Michael Nidoh and Edward Lavernoich regarding the Master Plan and zoning map changes;

 

[f]  a copy of anything provided to Attorney J. Brendan Sharkey from the attached FOI;

 

[g]  records of any meetings with the mayor and/or any city staff, Chris Caruso, Jack Hennessy, Michele Lyons, Adam Wood, Stephen Tyliszczak, Dawn Twistol, Andrew Nunn, Ed Schmidt, Anne Phillips, Mel Riley, Dennis Buckley, William Minor, Lynn Haig, Donald Eversley, Greg Conti, Michael Nidoh and Edward Lavernoich regarding the Master Plan and zoning map changes;

 

[h]  records of any meeting that any planning & zoning committee member had with Mayor Bill Finch or any of his staff/city employees regarding zoning matters;

 

[i]  records of the consensus votes on revisions to the map…records of who voted on each and every item, each and every time there was a consensus vote.

                                                                                                                                               

3.      By letter dated December 14, 2009, and filed on December 16, 2009, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to provide him with copies of the records, described in paragraph 2, above. 

                                                                                                                                               

4.      Section 1-200(5), G.S., defines “public records or files” as:

 

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 “any 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 requested by the complainant, to the extent that they exist, 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.      It is found that on April 1, 2010, the respondents contacted the complainant and informed him that records responsive to his request would be forwarded to him by April 5, 2010.  It is further found that on April 5, 2010, the respondents left a message for the complainant at his place of business, informing him that such records would not be available until April 7, 2010.  In addition, it is found that on April 9, 2010, the respondents contacted the complainant and again informed him that the records responsive to his November 25th request would not be available until the following Monday, April 12, 2010.         

 

9.      At the hearing in this matter, the respondents, through counsel, stated that they had in their immediate possession records responsive to the complainant’s November 25th request, which they would provide to the complainant at no charge, and that they would provide the complainant with a 100-page Planning and Zoning Commission meeting transcript, as soon as it was located, at no charge.[1]

 

10.  The respondents, through counsel, also acknowledged that their response to the complainant’s records request was untimely, but that such delay was justifiable given their shortage of staff and funding.

 

11.  It is found that the complainant’s November 25th request for records required the respondents to search records covering a two-year period, including 38 Planning and Zoning Commission meetings and/or hearings, and to make inquiries of over 20 individuals who may possess or have knowledge of any of the records at issue.  In addition, it is found that, at the time of such request, the respondents were experiencing staffing shortages.       

 

12.   It is found that the respondents did not contact the complainant regarding his request until April 1, 2010, four months after the fact.  It is found that certain responsive records, such as meeting minutes, could have been provided more promptly to the complainant.  In this regard, the respondents are advised that, when dealing with a request for numerous records, communication with the requester regarding the scope of the request, and the provision of records on a rolling basis, is the better course of action. 

 

13.   Notwithstanding the diligent search performed by the respondents, as described in paragraph 11, above, it is found that the respondents’ provision of all requested records four months after they were requested, was not prompt within the meaning of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S.

 

14.   It is concluded, therefore, that the respondents violated 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., by failing to promptly provide to the complainant copies of the requested records, described in paragraph 2, above.

 

 

 

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

                                                                       

1.      The respondents shall forthwith provide to the complainant, free of charge, a copy of all requested records that have not previously been provided.  In the event that all responsive records have been provided to the complainant, the respondents or their designee shall so inform the complainant by affidavit, signed by the Director of the Respondent Commission, within 30 days.

 

2.      Henceforth, the respondents shall strictly comply with the promptness provisions of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S.

 

 

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of September 8, 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:

 

Donal C. Collimore

1150 Post Road

Fairfield, CT 06824


Planning and Zoning Commission,

City of Bridgeport; and

City of Bridgeport

C/o Melanie J. Howlett, Esq.

Office of the City Attorney

999 Broad Street, 2nd Floor

Bridgeport, CT 06604

 

 

 

____________________________

S. Wilson

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2009-760FD/sw/9/13/2010

 



[1]  The respondents also stated that although they believed that the records described in paragraph 9, above, are the only records responsive to the complainant’s November 25th request, and that there are no records being claimed to be exempt from disclosure, they would nevertheless conduct another search to determine whether there are any records for which an exemption can be claimed.  Following the hearing, the hearing officer ordered the respondents to submit copies of any records that are being claimed exempt from disclosure for an in camera inspection; or in the alternative, if there are no such records, the respondents were ordered to submit a statement to the Commission, with a copy to the complainant, indicating that there are no records for which an exemption is being claimed.  On July 7, 2010, pursuant to the hearing officer’s order, the respondents notified the Commission, that there are no documents to be submitted in camera in this matter.