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 2010-795

Chief, Springdale Fire Company, Inc.;

and Springdale Fire Company, Inc.,

 
  Respondents October 12, 2011
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 9, 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 documents related to the Springdale Fire Company, and that such request consisted of an itemized list, numbered 1 through 7, with several subparts. 

 

3.  It is found that, by letter dated November 23, 2010, the complainant, through counsel, reiterated the request, described in paragraph 2, above.

 

4.  By letter of complaint, dated December 23, 2010, and filed on 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. 

 

5.  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.

 

6.  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.

 

            7.   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.”

 

8.   It is found that the records described in paragraph 2, above, to the extent they are retained by the respondents, 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. 

 

9.  At the hearing in this matter, the complainant, through counsel, stated that the respondents had provided records responsive to items 2 through 7 of the request, described in paragraph 2, above, and that it therefore wished to withdraw the complaint regarding the allegations related to such items.  Accordingly, the Commission shall not further consider such allegations.

 

10.  With regard to item 1 of the request, generally described in paragraph 2, above, such request specifically states:

 

Please accept this letter as a formal request…to inspect and copy, if needed, the following public documents:

 

1.  Documents, including emails, related in any manner to the fire service in the City of Stamford, which were created between July 1, 2009 and the present date, between Springdale Fire Company, Inc., its officers and members and

 

a.  The City of Stamford, City of Stamford employees, agents or elected officials, including Michael Pavia, [and] Corporation Counsel,

b.  The Mayor’s Fire Service Task Force,

c.  Turn of River Fire Department, its agents or elected officials,

d.  Long Ridge Fire Company, its agents or elected officials, [and]

e.  Belltown Fire Company, its agents, or elected officials.

 

           11.  It is found that only the chief and one other member of the respondent Springdale Fire Company were involved with the mayor’s Fire Service Task Force, and thus would have records responsive to the request, described in paragraph 10, above.  It is further found that each of these individuals uses his personal email account for fire company business.  It is also found that each of these individuals conducted a thorough search for emails, including deleted emails, and other records, responsive to the request described in paragraph 10, above, and did not locate any such records.  The chief testified, and it is found, that he deletes his emails after he reads them, or in some cases, if he does not delete them, they are automatically deleted after 30 days, pursuant to AOL’s email retention/deletion policy applicable to his account.

 

12.  It is found that the respondents do not maintain records responsive to the request, described in paragraph 10, above.

 

13.  The Commission takes administrative notice of its decision in Richard Rowlenson and Gemini Networks, Inc. v. John Fonfara, Co-Chairman, State of Connecticut, Connecticut General Assembly, Energy and Technology Committee, Docket #FIC 2005-408 (June 14, 2006), and adopts from that decision the following findings of fact: 

 

            a.  Web-based email correspondence, such as that administered by AOL and other providers, can, sometimes, by means of computer forensic methodologies, be recovered from the computer used to download or store the email, even if the email has not been previously saved to the computer’s hard drive. 

 

            b.  It is found that the cost of attempting to recover any such emails by means of forensic methodologies is in the thousands of dollars. 

 

14.  It is found that the respondent Springdale Fire Company is a volunteer fire company.  It is further found that the respondent Springdale Fire Company was minimally involved in the activities of the Mayor’s Fire Service Task Force and that, therefore, very few responsive records were received, sent or obtained by the two individuals identified in paragraph 11, above.  

 

15.  It is therefore concluded, under the facts and circumstances of this case, that the respondents diligently searched for the requested records, and that any further attempt to recover responsive emails from the respondents’ hard drives is not warranted.

 

16.  It is therefore 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 hereby dismissed.

 

            2.  The Commission urges the respondents to contact the State Records Administrator concerning the retention of emails and other records that relate to the conduct of the public’s business.

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of October 12, 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

 

Chief, Springdale Fire Company, Inc.; and

Springdale Fire Company, Inc.

c/o Monte E. Frank, Esq.

Cohen and Wolf, P.C.

158 Deer Hill Avenue

Danbury, CT  06810

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________

Cynthia A. Cannata

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

 

 

FIC/2010-795/FD/cac/10/12/2011