In the Matter of a Request
    for Advisory Opinion


     Advisory Opinion   #55

First Selectman, Town of Ridgefield, Applicant





On November 9. 1983, the Commission considered and agreed to respond to the request for an advisory opinion filed by the First Selectman, Town of Ridgefield.


In her request, the applicant states that the Town of Ridgefield does not have the specialized equipment to reproduce certain kinds of oversized maps and drawings. She also states that no firm in the town has the equipment to provide such service. Consequently, if such maps and drawings are to be copied, they must be sent out of town.


In essence, the applicant seeks the Commission's opinion as to the fee that the town may properly charge under Conn. Gen. Stat.1‑15 in complying with a request for a non‑certified copy of such records.


In the absence of state statute or federal law to the contrary, Conn. Gen. Stat.1‑15 sets forth the schedule of fees that a public agency may charge for a copy of a public record. See Freedom of Information Commission Advisory Opinion #30. That schedule contemplates a fee of no more than twenty‑five cents per page for a non-certified copy. If a copy requires a printout or transcription, or if the requester applies for a printout or transcription, then the fee may not exceed the cost thereof to the agency. 1‑15 also provides for the prepayment of any fee under that section if such fee is estimated to be ten dollars or more. The state sales tax is not imposed on any transaction under 1‑15.


In the context here presented by the applicant, a public agency has the affirmative obligation under l‑15 to provide an adequate copy of any public record requested, including maps, and drawings. It is the Commission's opinion that this obligation must be met in the least expensive manner that produces a copy satisfactory to the person requesting the copy. Thus, for example, if a map or drawing can be copied by the agency's photocopy equipment, the agency should use that equipment if the result would be a copy satisfactory to the requester. If, on the other hand, such a map or drawing is oversized and cannot be photocopied entirely on one sheet, it still might be satisfactory to the requester to provide sectional photocopies that could be placed together to form a composite. In the foregoing instances, the fee for providing such copies under 1‑15 would be no more than twenty‑five cents per page.


If, however, the agency cannot provide an adequate copy satisfactory to the requester because the record is reproducible only by specialized equipment not available to the agency, or because the record is oversized, the Commission believes that the requester has two other choices available. First, the requester can make his or her own arrangements to copy the record manually, such as by tracing, mechanically or electronically, if these processes would not harm the record. Any such process would be subject to the supervision of the agency to protect the record from loss, destruction or mutilation. See Freedom of Information Commission Advisory Opinion #51. And, of course, the requester would ordinarily have to bear the cost of having the copy made. See Conn. Gen. Stat.1‑15 fee waiver provisions.


The requester's second choice is to have the agency make arrangements to have the record copied manually, mechanically or electronically by a professional vendor of such services. If the requester chooses this latter option, then it is the Commission's opinion that the selection of this option is the functional equivalent ' of' requesting a transcription or printout under 51‑15. Therefore, the Commission believes that the agency may charge a copying fee not in excess of the cost to the agency. Such cost may include the cost of transmitting the record to and from the vendor by means that ensure its security. However, the Commission stresses that it is still the agency's obligation in this situation to provide the copy in the least expensive manner taking into account adequate protection for the record in question.


The Commission believes that the cost of copy provisions of 1‑15 were enacted primarily to facilitate public access to government records by making such records available at a reasonably low cost. Although the General Assembly intended that public agencies be permitted to recoup the most direct out‑of‑pocket expenses in providing copies of their records, it is also evident that it considered the function of providing such copies to be an essential part of the governmental duties of all public agencies. See Freedom of Information Commission Advisory opinion #51. Thus, the Commission believes that its opinion and analysis stated herein are in keeping with both the letter of the Freedom of Information Act, as well as with the legislative intent underlying it.




                                                                                            By Order of the Freedom of
                                                                                            Information Commission


                                                                                            Judith A. Lahey, Chairman of
                                                                                            of the Freedom of Information

Date ___________________



Mary Jo Jolicoeur
Clerk of the Commission