FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Meg Casasanta,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2010-529
Superintendent of Schools, Newington Public
Schools,
 
  Respondent July 13, 2011
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on January 20, 2011, at which time the complainant and respondent 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 respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-200(1), G.S.

 

2.      It is found that on August 4, 2010, the complainant made a written request for copies of the respondent’s invoices and purchase orders for May and June, 2010.

 

3.      By letter filed August 25, 2010, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to provide her with the records she requested. 

 

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

 

“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, …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:

 

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 … receive a copy of such records in accordance with section 1-212.

 

6.      Section 1-212(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:  “Any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record.”

 

7.      It is concluded that the records requested by the complainant are public records within the meaning of 1-200(5), 1-210(a), and 1-212(a), G.S.

 

8.      The respondent claims that he maintains 10,750 pages of records responsive to the complainant’s request.  At the hearing in this matter, the respondent acknowledged the complainant’s right to all the records she requested. 

 

9.      The respondent contends, however, that the FOI Act permits him to charge the complainant 50 cents for each copy.  It is found that the respondent refused to copy and provide all the records unless the complainant made a prepayment of $500.

 

10.   The complainant claims that 1-212(d)(4), G.S., requires the respondent to waive any fee for copies of records in this case.

 

11.   Section 1-212(d)(4), G.S., provides: 

 

The public agency shall waive any fee provided for in this section when … The person requesting the record is an elected official of a political subdivision of the state and the official (A) obtains the record from an agency of the political subdivision in which the official serves, and (B) certifies that the record pertains to the official’s duties.

 

12.   Although the term “political subdivision” is not defined in the FOI Act, the Connecticut Supreme Court has explained:

 

The attributes which are generally regarded as distinctive of a political subdivision are that it exists for the purpose of discharging some function of local government, that it has a prescribed area, and that it possesses authority for subordinate self-government through officers selected by it

 

Dugas v. Beauregard, 155 Conn. 573, 578 (1967).

 

13.   It is concluded that the Town of Newington is a political subdivision of the state, and the Newington Town Council is an agency of the Town of Newington.

 

14.   It is found that at all times relevant to this matter, the complainant was a member of the Newington Town Council.

 

15.   It is found that the complainant was an elected official of a political subdivision of the state.

 

16.   It is concluded that the respondent superintendent is the chief executive officer of the Newington Board of Education.  Section 10-157, G.S.

 

17.   It is concluded that the superintendent is an agency of the Newington Board of Education.

 

18.   Section 10-240, G.S., provides:  “Each town shall through its board of education maintain the control of all the public schools within its limits and for this purpose shall be a school district …”

 

19.   Section 10-220, G.S., provides:  “Each local or regional board of education shall maintain good public elementary and secondary schools, implement the educational interests of the state … and provide such other educational activities as in its judgment will best serve the interests of the school district.”

 

20.   The Connecticut Supreme Court has held:

 

A town board of education is an agency of the state in charge of education in the town; to that end it is granted broad powers by the legislature; and it is beyond control by the town or any of its officers in the exercise of those powers or in the incurring of expense, to be paid by the town, necessitated thereby, except as limitations are found in statutory provisions.

 

Board of Education of Stamford v. Board of Finance, 127 Conn. 345, 349 (1940).

 

21.   It is concluded that the Newington School District is a political subdivision of the state, distinct from the political subdivision that is the Town of Newington. 

 

22.   It is concluded that the Newington Board of Education, as the legislative body of the Newington School District, is an agency of the Newington School District. 

 

23.   It is further concluded that the respondent superintendent, as an agency of the board of education, is also an agency of the Newington School District, not of the Town of Newington.

 

24.   It is found that the complainant did not request records from an agency of the political subdivision in which she serves.

 

25.   It is concluded, therefore, that the complainant’s request did not satisfy the requirements of 1-212(d)(4), G.S.

 

26.   It is concluded that 1-212(d)(4), G.S., does not require the respondent to waive the complainant’s fee for copies of records in this case.

 

27.   Accordingly, it is concluded that the respondent did not violate the FOI Act as alleged by the complainant.

 

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 July 13, 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:

 

Meg Casasanta

C/o Robert A. Michalik, Esq.

Michalik, Bauer, Silvia & Ciccarillo, LLP

35 Pearl Street, Suite 300

New Britain, CT 06051

 

Superintendent of Schools, Newington Public Schools

C/o Thomas B. Mooney, Esq.

Shipman & Goodwin, LLP

One Constitutiion Plaza

Hartford, CT 06103

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________

S. Wilson

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2010-529FD/sw/7/14/2011