FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
William Myette,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2010-173

Edward J. Demarco, Jr.,

Chief, Police Department, Town of

East Windsor; and Police Department,  

Town of East Windsor,

 
  Respondents February 9, 2011
       

  

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 6 and November 1, 2010, at which times the complainant and the respondents appeared 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)(A), G.S.

 

2.  It is found that, by letter received by the respondents on February 12, 2010, the complainant requested all records dated between April 1, 2008 and February 1, 2010 which concerned the complainant, an individual identified as “Schneider”, and the address “15 Plantation Road”, together with records specifying the procedure to determine “suitability for issuance of a concealed pistol permit” (the “requested records”).

 

3.  By letter dated March 5, 2010 and filed with the Freedom of Information Commission (the “Commission”) on March 10, 2010, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents failed to provide the requested records in violation of the Freedom of Information Act. The complainant also requested the imposition of civil penalties.

 

4.  Section 1-210(a), G.S., states 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. (emphasis added) 

 

5.  Section 1-212, G.S., states in relevant part:

 

(a) Any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record. (emphasis added)

 

6.  It is concluded that the requested records described in paragraph 2, above, are “public records” within the meaning of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S.

 

7.  It is found that, by letters dated March 12 and May 4, 2010, the respondents provided the complainant with records within the scope of his request. Administrative Assistant Maria Diana-Root supervised the March 12 and May 4, 2010 disclosures.

 

8.  At the July 6, 2010 hearing, the complainant produced various records responsive to his request that the respondents had not provided to him. The Hearing Officer suggested that, prior to a continued hearing, the respondents perform a renewed, in depth search for the requested records, with different personnel supervising the search. Subsequently, the respondent Chief, Police Department, ordered the respondent Department’s Information Technology Supervisor, Sgt. Kenith Smith, to conduct “a thorough and comprehensive search”. Assisted by Records Manager, Tracy LeChat, Sgt. Smith canvassed each member of the respondent Department, with a written questionnaire which was completed, signed and returned. As a result of this second search, a substantial quantity of additional records was provided to the complainant on September 3, 2010.   

 

9.  It is found that the initial search, prior to the July 6, 2010 hearing, contained errors and omissions. The initial failure to perform a diligent search caused a delay in providing the requested records to the complainant of about six months. It is also found that the respondent Chief, Police Department, initially instructed the Administrative Assistant “to release everything” and that he did not intentionally withhold any records from the complainant.

 

10.  It is concluded that the respondent Department failed to provide the records “promptly” in violation of 1-212(a), G.S. See Advisory Opinion #51, In the Matter of a Request for Declaratory Ruling, Third Taxing District of the City of Norwalk, Applicant (Notice of Final Decision dated January 11, 1982).      

 

11.  With respect to the complainant’s request for the imposition of a civil penalty, 1-206(b)(2), G.S., provides, in relevant part:

 

…upon the finding that a denial of any right created by the Freedom of Information Act was without reasonable grounds and after the custodian or other official directly responsible for the denial 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 the custodian or other official a civil penalty of not less than twenty dollars nor more than one thousand dollars.

 

12.  In light of the exhaustive search that the respondents ultimately performed, the Commission declines to assess a civil penalty.

 

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

 

1.  Henceforth, the respondent Department shall provide non-exempt requested records promptly.

 

2.  In order to ensure the conduct of diligent searches for requested records, the Commission suggests that the respondent Chief, Police Department strengthen the supervision of the Administrative Assistant in her FOIA duties. A regular role for Information Technology Supervisor, Sgt. Kenith Smith, and Records Manager, Tracy LeChat might be one way to accomplish this goal.

 

 

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of February 9, 2011.

 

 

____________________________

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:

 

William Myette

15 Plantation Road

Broad Brook, CT 06016


Edward J. Demarco, Jr.,

Chief, Police Department, Town of

East Windsor; and Police Department, 

Town of East Windsor

C/o Joshua A. Hawks-Ladds, Esq.

Pullman & Comley, LLC

90 State House Square

Hartford, CT 06103

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________

S. Wilson

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2010-173FD/sw/2/14/2011