FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Edward Peruta,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2010-643
Seth Mancini, State of Connecticut,
Department of Public Safety; Thomas
Hatfield, State of Connecticut, Department
of Public Safety; and State of Connecticut,
Department of Public Safety,
 
  Respondents August 10, 2011
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 5, 2011, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. 

 

At the beginning of the hearing on this matter, the complainant requested that the Commission consider enforcing subpoenas he served on the respondents to compel the production of the requested records described in paragraph 3 of the findings, below.  However, such request was denied.

 

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 hand-delivered letter of complaint, dated October 14, 2010 and filed October 15, 2010, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the FOI Act by denying the complainant prompt access to the requested records described in paragraph 3, below.  The complainant specifically alleged that the respondents violated the FOI Act by:

 

a.       “repeated failure to provide prompt access or a prompt response or requests to inspect or obtain copies of public records;

 

b.      having in place an established policy and/or scheme that repeatedly prevents prompt access to, or timely copies of, public records when requested verbally or in writing;

 

c.       failing to respond in a timely manner to requests for access to or copies of public records;

 

d.      repeatedly failing to have personnel available to receive verbal requests for access to or copies of public records;

 

e.       improperly and unlawfully delaying access to or copies of computer stored records that are readily accessible during the absence of one individual employees;

 

f.       improperly charging $16.00 for access to a computer stored public record on October 13th ; and

 

g.      failure to have trained personnel in the various troops to handle Freedom of Information requests.”

 

The complainant requested that the maximum civil penalty be imposed against the respondents, based on “the historical record…. previous orders of the [Commission], and the ruling in the Connecticut Appellate Court case, Department of Public Safety v. FOI Commission, 29 Conn. App. 821 (1993).

 

3.  It is found that, by phone and by subsequent email exchanges between the complainant and the respondents, beginning on or about September 28, 2010 through October 14, 2010, the complainant requested that the respondents provide him access to the following records:

 

a.       “All records related to proposals suggested, being considered or submitted from The Department of Public Safety for the 2011 legislative session;” and

 

b.       Case report, CFS 1000521426 (“case report”), which was created at Connecticut State Police Troop L in Litchfield, Connecticut, regarding a September 24, 2010 firearms incident in Harwinton, Connecticut.

(“the requested records”).

 

4.  It is found that, by email dated October 8, 2010, the complainant inquired about the status of his request for records described in paragraph 3, above.

 

5.  It is found that, by email dated October 8, 2010, the respondent, Seth Mancini, informed the complainant that he had forwarded the complainant’s request described in paragraph 3.a., above, to the respondents’ legislative liaison, who indicated that he would be out of state until October 18, 2010 and would respond to such request “first thing upon his return.”

 

6.  It is found that, by email sent on or about October 14, 2010, the complainant renewed his request for the records described in paragraph 3.b., above.  The complainant specifically stated that the requested case report at issue in this matter was completed and not a draft since the report was signed by the state trooper who created the report, a state trooper sergeant, and was submitted to the respondents’ reports and records unit in Middletown, Connecticut.  The complainant further demanded “PROMPT ACCESS to the NON CRIMINAL case file and supporting documents” requested in paragraph 3.b., above.

 

7.  It is found that, by email dated October 14, 2010, the respondent Seth Mancini informed the complainant that he had reviewed parts of the requested case report, described in paragraph 3.b., above.  He also informed the complainant that the requested case report “is not a simple accident report and therefore cannot be disclosed” from Troop L, until the content of such report is reviewed for “sensitive or confidential information,” regardless of whether or not the case report is a draft.  Mr. Mancini further contended that the Connecticut Appellate Court ruling in Department of Public Safety v. FOI Commission, 29 Conn. App. 821, 1993, pertains to accident reports in which there is no “danger of disclosing sensitive or confidential information,” unlike the requested case report described in paragraph 3.b., above.

 

8.  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.

 

9.  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 (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. …

 

10.  Section 1-212(a)(1), 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.

 

            11.  It is found that the respondents maintain the records described in paragraph 3, above, and it is therefore concluded that such records are “public records” and must be disclosed in accordance with 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., unless they are exempt from disclosure.

 

12.  At the hearing on this matter, the complainant contended that the respondents denied him prompt access to the requested records by failing to have trained personnel at Troop L to accept and respond to his request described in paragraph 3.b., above.  The complainant also contended that he was denied prompt access since the case report that was created and completed at Troop L was then sent to the Department of Public Safety’s Legal Department in Middletown, Connecticut, for review to prevent the disclosure of sensitive or confidential information.

 

13.  With respect to the case report described in paragraph 3.b., above, it is found that the complainant conceded that he received a copy of such responsive records within fourteen days of making his request for such records.  It is also found that, on October 19, 2010, the respondents provided the complainant with all of the responsive legislative records described in paragraph 3.a., above.  It is concluded that under the facts and circumstances of this case, where the records at issue were compiled, reviewed and made available to the complainant in just over two weeks, such provision of access was “prompt”, within the meaning of 1-210(a), G.S.

 

14.  It is concluded that, based on the facts and circumstances of this case, the respondents did not violate the promptness provisions of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., as specifically alleged by the complainant in paragraph 2, above.

 

15.  Accordingly, the complainant’s request for the imposition of civil penalties against the respondents is denied.

 

16.  It is further found that during the respondents’ presentation of its case at the hearing in this matter, the complainant became increasingly agitated, argumentative and disruptive.  The complainant then walked out of the hearing prior to its conclusion.

 

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

 

1.  The complaint is hereby dismissed.

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of August 10, 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:

 

Edward Peruta

38 Parish Road

Rocky Hill, CT 06067

 

Seth Mancini, State of Connecticut,

Department of Public Safety; Thomas

Hatfield, State of Connecticut, Department

of Public Safety; and State of Connecticut,

Department of Public Safety

C/o Terrence M. O’Neill, Esq.

Assistant Attorney General

110 Sherman Street

Hartford, CT 06105

 

 

 

____________________________

S. Wilson

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2010-643FD/sw/8/18/2011