FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

Stamford Professional Fire Fighters

Association,

 
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2010-796

Mayor, City of Stamford; and

City of Stamford,

 
  Respondents September 14, 2011
       

                                                                         

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 20, 2011, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  The case caption has been amended to reflect the removal of Daniel Hunsberger as a complainant.

 

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 October 12, 2010, the complainant sent a request to the respondents to inspect and copy the following records:

 

            a.  Documents, including emails, between Turn of River Fire Department, Inc., Belltown Fire Company, Inc., Springdale Fire Company and Long Ridge Fire Company, its officers and members and the City of Stamford, City of Stamford employees, agents or elected officials, including Michael Pavia, Corporation Counsel and the mayor’s Fire Service Task Force related in any manner to the fire service in the City of Stamford, which were created from [sic] July 1, 2009 and the present.

 

            b.  Documents authorizing the Turn of River Fire Department, Inc., Belltown Fire Company, Inc., Springdale Fire Company and Long Ridge Fire Company to extinguish fires in the within the [sic] City of Stamford.

 

3.  It is found that, by letter dated October 21, 2010, the respondents informed the complainant that the request, described in paragraph 2, above, was overly broad, and asked if the scope of such request could be narrowed. 

 

4.  It is found that, by letter dated December 7, 2010, the complainant reiterated the request, described in paragraph 2, above.

 

5.  By letter of complaint, dated December 23, 2010, and filed December 28, 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.”

 

9.  It is found that the records described in paragraph 2, above, are public records 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 they are exempt from disclosure. 

 

10.  At the hearing in this matter, counsel for the complainant stated that the complainant wished to withdraw the complaint as to the allegations described in paragraph 2.b., above.   Therefore, the Commission shall not consider such allegations herein.

 

11.  It is found that, with regard to the request, described in paragraph 2.a., above, the respondents provided some of the requested records to the complainant, but did not provide other requested records, because such records were emails that had been deleted.  Further, it is found that the respondents maintain additional records responsive to the request, described in paragraph 2.a., above, that they claim are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(4), (1) and (10), G.S.  

 

12.  The respondents submitted such additional records, consisting of various emails and documents related to the Fire Service Task Force, for in camera inspection by the Commission.  Such records shall be identified herein as IC 2010-796-001 through IC 2010-796-062.

 

            13.  First, the respondents claim that all of the in camera records are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(4), G.S., because they pertain to strategy and negotiations with respect to pending litigation. 

 

14.  With regard to the 1-210(b)(4), G.S., claim of exemption, such provision permits an agency to withhold  “records pertaining to strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims or pending litigation to which the public agency is a party until such litigation or claim has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled.”

 

15.  It is found that fire service is, and has been, provided to the City of Stamford by one professional fire department, and several volunteer fire departments. 

 

16.  It is found that the mayor of the City of Stamford created a task force for the purpose of creating a fire service plan to reorganize the delivery of fire service throughout the city.  It is also found that the respondents are parties to pending litigation generally relating to the breakdown of the delivery of fire service in the City of Stamford resulting from territorial disputes among the various fire departments.  It is further found that, by agreement of the parties to the pending litigation, and, based upon the parties’ representations that a new fire service plan, once adopted, will render decisions on the pending litigation moot, no decisions will be rendered on such pending litigation, if such new fire service plan is adopted.

 

17.  The respondents claim that the in camera records pertain to strategy and negotiation with respect to the pending litigation described in paragraph 16, above, and that they therefore are exempt from disclosure.  After careful review of the in camera records, it is found that, based upon the facts and circumstances of this case, such records do, in fact, pertain to strategy and negotiation with respect to the pending litigation.

 

18.  It is therefore concluded that the in camera records are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(4), G.S.[1]

 

19.  Based upon the foregoing, it is concluded that the respondents did not violate 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 complaint is dismissed.

           

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of September 14, 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:

 

 

Stamford Professional Fire Fighters Association

629 Main Street

Stamford, CT  06901

 

Mayor, City of Stamford; and City of Stamford

c/o Burt Rosenberg, Esq.

Assistant Corporation Counsel

P.O. Box 10152

Stamford, CT  06518

 

 

 

 

____________________________

Cynthia A. Cannata

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

 

 

FIC/2010-796/FD/cac/9/14/2011

         

                                                                       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] The Commission therefore need not consider the respondents’ additional claims of exemption.