FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Wesley S. Lubee, Jr.,    
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2010-757

Executive Director, Housing Authority,

Town of Wallingford; and Housing

Authority, Town of Wallingford,

 
  Respondents July 27, 2011
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 31, 2011, at which time 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), G.S.

 

2.  It is found that, by letter dated November 26, 2010, the complainant sent a request to the respondents for a copy of “the pending claims or litigation scheduled for a December 6, 2010 Executive Session of the Wallingford Housing Authority.”

 

3.  It is found that, by letter dated November 30, 2010, the respondents advised the complainant that the “information you requested in your November 26, 2010 letter is protected by the Freedom of Information regulations,” and specifically referred the complainant to “sections 1-210B4 as well as 1-208 and 1-209.” 

 

4.  It is found that, by letter dated December 2, 2010, the complainant clarified his request, described in paragraph 2, above, by informing the respondents that he was not seeking any “strategy [or] negotiation records.” 

 

5.  By letter of complaint, dated December 6, 2010 and filed December 8, 2010, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by failing to comply with the request for records described in paragraph 2, above. 

 

6.  Section 1-200(5), G.S., provides:

 

“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, 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.

 

7.  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.

 

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

 

9It is found that the respondents maintain the record described in paragraph 2, above, and that such record is a public record within the meaning of 1-200(5), G.S., and therefore must be disclosed in accordance with 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., unless it is exempt from disclosure. 

 

10.  It is found that, on December 6, 2010, the respondents held a special meeting and that, during such special meeting, the respondents met in executive session to discuss item 2 on the agenda for such meeting, which stated:

Executive Session pursuant to CGS 1-200(6)(B), strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims or pending litigation with which the public agency or a member thereof…is a party, namely with respect to that certain matter Nere v. Housing Authority of the Town of Wallingford.

11.  It is found that Stephen Nere was the executive director of the respondent housing authority at the time of the special meeting.  It is found that, sometime prior to the special meeting, Mr. Nere filed a civil action against the respondent housing authority in superior court, and that a copy of the summons and complaint pertaining to such civil action had been served upon the respondent housing authority.

12.  At the hearing in this matter, the complainant stated that he was seeking a copy of the complaint described in paragraph 11, above, and that the respondents, as of the time of the hearing, had not provided him with a copy of such complaint.   

13.  At the hearing in this matter, the respondents argued, first, that the request was unclear, and that therefore they were unable to comply with it.  In their post-hearing brief, they further claimed they did not have an obligation to comply with the request because it was vague.  The respondents also argued at the hearing that the requested record is exempt from disclosure.

14.  The respondents testified, and it is found, that no representative of the respondents contacted the complainant to ask him to clarify his request.  According to the respondents, they did not contact the complainant because, in the past, “conversations with him have not been productive.”  It is further found that the respondents failed to offer any evidence at the hearing in this matter regarding the applicability of any exemption to disclosure with respect to the record at issue.

15.  It is found that the complainant’s request is clear on its face.

16.  It is concluded that the requested record is not exempt from disclosure, and it is therefore concluded that the respondents violated the FOI Act as alleged in the complaint.

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

 

            1.  The respondents are hereby ordered forthwith to provide the complainant with a copy of the complaint, described in paragraphs 2 and 11 of the findings, above, free of charge.

 

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

 

            3.  The Commission notes that simple communication between the parties would likely have avoided a contested case hearing in this matter, thereby conserving the Commission’s limited resources.

 

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of July 27,  2011.

 

 

__________________________

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:

 

Wesley S. Lubee, Jr.

15 Montowese Trail

Wallingford, CT  06492

 

 

Executive Director, Housing Authority,

Town of Wallingford; and Housing

Authority, Town of Wallingford

c/o E. James Loughlin, Esq.

Loughlin Law, PC

401 Center Street

Wallingford, CT  06492

 

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________

Cynthia A. Cannata

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

 

 

FIC/2010-757/FD/cac/8/1/2011