FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

 

In the Matter of a Request
for Advisory Opinion


 

     Advisory Opinion   #76

President, Connecticut Town Clerks Association, Applicant

    

 

 

 

On July 12, 1989, the Commission considered and agreed to respond to the request for an advisory opinion filed by the President of the Connecticut Town Clerks Association.

 

In his request, the applicant states that under Conn. Gen. Stat. 7-37 town clerks in Connecticut are ex officio local registrars of vital statistics. He also states that under Conn. Gen. Stat. 7-44 each local registrar of a municipality in which a birth occurs ("town of birth") must transmit a certified copy of the birth certificate of each child born in that municipality to the local registrar of the town in which that child's parents reside at the time of the child's birth ("town of residence"). The applicant notes that the State Department of Health Services, relying on an informal opinion by an assistant attorney general, has advised local registrars that they may not issue to authorized persons certified copies of the birth certificate copies they receive from the registrars of the towns of birth.

 

In essence, the applicant seeks the Commission's opinion as to whether registrars of the towns of residence may, consistent with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act, refuse to provide authorized persons with certified copies of the birth certificate copies they receive from the registrars of the towns of birth.

 

In addressing this question in an informal opinion dated October 7, 1988, an assistant attorney general concluded that the registrar of a town of residence does not have the authority to issue a certified copy of a birth certificate transmitted by the registrar of the town of birth. Unfortunately, however, the opinion does not take into account the operative provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

 

Conn. Gen. Stat. 1‑15 provides in pertinent part:

 

Any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record.

 

 

Conn. Gen. Stat. 1‑18a(d), in turn, defines "public records" as:

 

any recorded data or information relating to the conduct of the public's business prepared, owned, used, received or retained by a public agency, whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape‑recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.

 

Similarly, Conn. Gen. Stat. 1‑19(a) states:

 

all records maintained or kept on file by any agency, whether or not such records are required law or by any rule or regulation, shall be records.

public by any public

 

The language of 1‑15 is mandatory, Sullivan v. Liberty Mutual Fire Ins. Co. , 174 Conn. 229, 233 (1978); and to the Commission's knowledge it is not superseded by or in conflict with any other state statute. Furthermore, since the definitions of "public records" in 1‑18a(d) and 1‑19(a) do not limit such records to originals, the Commission believes that the certified copy provisions of 1‑15 apply to documents that are not themselves originals.

 

Consequently, it is the Commission's opinion that Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-15 requires registrars of the towns of residence to provide certified copies of the birth certificate copies they receive from the registrars of the towns of birth to authorized persons requesting such certified copies.

 

But this does not end the inquiry. To fully address the applicant's request it is necessary to determine what constitutes a proper certification for purposes of Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-15. This is especially important here where the registrars of the towns of residence do not have custody or possession of the original birth certificates from which they can certify that the copies they provide are true copies of the originals.

 

It is the Commission's opinion that the certification required by 1‑15 must state, at a minimum, that the certified copy is a true copy of a public record maintained or kept on file by the public agency, whether that record is an original or a copy. If the public record is itself a copy, the certification must clearly state that the certified copy is a true copy of a copy of a document maintained or kept on file by the public agency. The certification must make clear that the copy is not a copy of an original document. The legal value of a certified copy of a copy is, of course, problematical. But the legal consequences are for the requester to determine. On the other hand, if a document requested to be certified is a copy of an original, the certification must clearly state that fact.

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                            By Order of the Freedom of
                                                                                            Information Commission

                                                                                           

                                                                                ________________________
                                                                                            Curtis Cofield, Chairman of
                                                                                            of the Freedom of Information
                                                                                            Commission

Dated: ___________________

 

Ordered:_________________

Karen Haggett, Clerk