FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|against||Docket #FIC 2010-030|
Freedom of Information Officer,
State of Connecticut, Department of
Correction; and State of Connecticut,
Department of Correction,
|Respondents||September 22, 2010|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 30, 2010, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. For purposes of hearing, this matter was consolidated with Docket #FIC 2010-283, Bryant Rollins v. Joan Ellis, Freedom of Information Officer, State of Connecticut, Department of Correction; 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. By letter of complaint filed January 19, 2010, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by denying his request for a fee waiver.
3. It is found that on December 29, 2009, the complainant made a written request for copies of certain records, and requested a waiver of copying fees on the ground that he was indigent.
4. It is found the respondents acknowledged the request by letter dated January 4, 2010, but denied his request for a fee waiver.
5. It is found that in the January 4, 2010 letter, the respondents informed the complainant that they had gathered 11 pages of documents, and that they required prepayment of $2.75 (at $0.25 per page) before they would make the copies and provide them to the complainant.
6. It is found that the respondents informed the complainant by letter dated January 19, 2010, that they had gathered 1307 more pages of documents, and that they required prepayment of $326.75 (at $0.25 per page) before they would make the copies and provide them to the complainant.
7. It is found that the complainant continued to maintain that he was indigent, and declined to make payment.
8. Section 1-212(a)(1), G.S., provides in relevant part:
… The fee for any copy provided in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act:
(1) By an executive, administrative or legislative office of the state, a state agency or a department, institution, bureau, board, commission, authority or official of the state, including a committee of, or created by, such an office, agency, department, institution, bureau, board, commission, authority or official, and also including any judicial office, official or body or committee thereof but only in respect to its or their administrative functions, shall not exceed twenty-five cents per page ….
9. Additionally, §1-212(d)(1), G.S., provides: “The public agency shall waive any fee provided for in this section when: (1) The person requesting the records is an indigent individual ….”
10. It is found that the content, completeness and disclosure of the records described in paragraph 3, above, are not at issue in this matter. Rather, at issue is the respondents’ indigence standard for waiving copying fees for indigent inmates and whether such standard is objective, fair and reasonable. The complainant contends that the respondents’ standard “curtails and diminishes” inmates’ ability to exercise their rights to receive copies of records.
11. Administrative Directive 3.10 (Fees, Reimbursements and Donations), in effect when the complainant made his request, provides, in relevant part:
An inmate shall be charged twenty-five cents for each page copied. The fee shall be waived if an inmate is indigent. For copies of records pursuant to the [FOI] Act, an inmate shall be considered indigent if the monetary balance in his or her inmate trust account, or any other known account, has not equaled or exceeded five dollars ($5.00) at any time (1) during the ninety (90) days preceding the receipt by the Department of the request for records and (2) during the days preceding the date on which the request for records is fulfilled (up to a maximum of ninety (90) days after the date of the request).
12. Administrative Directive 6.10 (Inmate Property) provides, in relevant part, that “[a]n inmate shall be considered indigent when he or she has less than five dollars ($5.00) on account at admission or when the monetary balance in his or her inmate trust account, or in any other known account, has not equaled or exceeded five dollars ($5.00) at any time during the preceding ninety (90) days.”
13. The complainant claims that the $5.00 limit is neither fair nor reasonable and, therefore, is not an acceptable standard for assessing indigency for the purposes of receiving waivers of fees for copies of records pursuant to FOI requests.
14. This Commission, however, has recently approved the DOC’s standard of indigence insofar as it looks at the inmate’s trust account balance as of the date of the request, and looks back in time on the inmate’s trust account history; but the Commission has not considered the DOC’s policy of looking forward in time at the trust account history to ensure that the inmate has received no funds following his request for a fee waiver. See Docket #FIC 2009-137; Bryant Rollins v. Administrator, State of Connecticut, Department of Correction, Freedom of Information Office; and State of Connecticut, Department of Correction; Docket #FIC 2009-483; Bryant Rollins v. Executive Director, State of Connecticut, University of Connecticut Health Center, Correctional Managed Health Care; and State of Connecticut, University of Connecticut Health Center, Correctional Managed Care.
15. It is found that the monetary balance in the complainant’s inmate trust account, or any other known account, exceeded five dollars at several times during the 90 days preceding the receipt by the respondents of the complainant’s request for records.
16. It is found that this case does not involve the DOC looking forward in time at the inmate’s trust account history from the date of the request.
17. It is therefore concluded that the respondents did not violate §1-212(d)(1), G.S., as alleged.
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 September 22, 2010.
Cynthia A. Cannata
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:
Bryant Rollins #14096
J.B. Gates Correctional Institution
131 N. Bridebrook Road
Niantic, CT 06357
Freedom of Information Officer, State of Connecticut, Department of Correction; and State of Connecticut, Department of Correction
c/o Nicole Anker, Esq.
Department of Correction
24 Wolcott Hill Road
Wethersfield, CT 06109
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission
 Following the hearing in this matter, the complainant proffered, through the ombudsperson assigned to this case, two documents as after-filed exhibits, to which the respondents objected. Such documents have not been accepted as exhibits and have not been made part of the administrative record.