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Final Decision FIC2013-662
In the Matter of a Complaint by
FINAL DECISION
John Hollis,
     Complainant
     against
Docket #FIC 2013-662
Commissioner, State of Connecticut,
Department of Mental Health and
Addiction Services; and State of
Connecticut, Department of Mental
Health and Addiction Services, 
     Respondents
July 23, 2014

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 19, 2014, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.
     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 August 23, 2013, the complainant requested copies of the following records:  “all documents of employment and disciplinary actions pertaining to Connecticut Valley Hospital (“CVH”).”
     3.  It is found that, by letter dated August 29, 2013, the respondents acknowledged the complainant’s request.  In their acknowledgement, it is found that the respondents informed the complainant that, in order to process the request, they would need some clarification, including the names of the individuals whose records were being sought, and the time frame requested.  It is further found that the respondents informed the complainant that the charge for the records would be $.25 per page, and, that if the cost exceeded $10.00, the complainant would have to prepay the cost. 
     4.  It is found that, by email dated September 21, 2013, the complainant responded to the respondents’ August 29, 2013 correspondence.  It is further found that the complainant both clarified and broadened his initial request, as follows:
(a) I am requesting information. . . related to all CVH employees disciplined, terminated, released, and/or assigned to a stipulated agreement as well as all information related to hiring and promotions between January 1, 2000 to the present;
(b) We (sic) are also requesting all e-mails about us (sic) with the names David Samuels; David; DS; John Hollis; John; Hollis; and JH in the subject and/or body of the mails;
(c) David Samuels (sic) is requesting the following senders/recipients from January 1, 2006 to present:  Nanette Latremouille; Jeanne O’Brien; Nick Gilbert; Cathy McGuiness; Linda Gagnon; Timothy Denier; Janine Larochelle; Karen Field; James Reed; Helene Vartelas; Israel Martinez; Susan Wrubel; Lakeisha Hyatt; Shawn Kuhn; Thomas Tokarz; Gabriel Blackburn; Alphonso Mims; Patti Ann Maneggia; and John Brown;
(d) John Hollis is requesting the following senders/recipients from January 1, 1997 to the present:  Linda Gagnon; Cathy McGuiness; Timothy Denier; James Reed; Susan Wrubel; Karen Peterkin; Marcia Adams; Thomas Tokarz; Shawn Kuhn; John Brown; Helene Vartelas; Israel Martinez; Gabriel Blackburn; David Pawlak; Michael McGarthy; Alphonso Mims; Linda McKone; Patti Ann Maneggia; Patricia Pogmore; Cheryl Thompson and Penelope Gonzalez. 
     5.  In addition, it is found that, in the September 21, 2013 email, the complainant informed the respondents that he was requesting that all of the records be provided to him on a CV/DVD or thumb drive, and that, for any database provided, he was requesting “a record layout (data dictionary), providing a complete record layout, naming all fields—including denied fields.” 
     6.  It is found that, by letter dated September 23, 2013, the respondents again corresponded with the complainant, informing him that they were not sure whether they could put all of the requested records on a DVD or flash drive.  It is further found that the respondents also informed the complainant that they estimated that it would take approximately thirty days to compile the requested records.  
     7.  It is found that, by letter dated September 25, 2013, the respondents again communicated with the complainant, indicating that, with respect to the request described in paragraph 4.a, above, there were no databases containing the requested information.  It is further found that the respondents indicated that they were not sure, with respect to the request described in paragraph 4.b, above, whether there were particular names of senders/receivers whose email should be searched, because if not, there would be 2000 electronic mails boxes to search; and, with respect to the requests described in paragraphs 4.c and 4.d, above, whether there was particular search criteria and/or particular senders/receivers that the complainant was seeking to obtain.  It is further found that the respondents stated that, once they received clarification, they would be able to produce the records electronically.  
     8.  It is found that, by email dated September 30, 2013, the complainant replied as follows:  with respect to the request described in paragraph 4.a, above, the complainant indicated that the respondents had to have responsive records and that “[h]iring and promotions are in the Human Resources Database.  We want all the names, positions and race/sex for all employees hired and promoted”; and, with respect to the respect to the request described in paragraph 4.b, above, the respondents should understand the sender and recipient email boxes to be those listed in requests 4.c and 4.d, above.In addition, the complainant indicated that he wanted “metadata2 for these emails (from, send, subject, data [sic]).”

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It is therefore found that the request described in paragraph 4.b, above, is actually two requests-one for the search terms set forth in said request to be run in the email boxes of those individuals listed in paragraph 4.c, above, and another for the same search terms to be run in the emails boxes of those individuals listed in paragraph 4.d, above.

2
Metadata means "data about data." See Wikipedia (definition of a metadata) at http://enwikipedia.org/wiki/Metadata (accessed: July 1, 2014).
     9.  It is found that, by email dated October 9, 2013, the complainant inquired of the respondents as to when he might receive the requested records.  It is further found that the complainant further indicated that, in his view, he had narrowed the request. 
     10. By email dated and filed October 24, 2013, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by denying his request for a copy of the records described in paragraph 2, above, and further described in paragraph 4, above. 
     11. 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.
     12. 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, (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.
     13. Section 1-212(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that:
Any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain, facsimile, electronic or certified copy of any public record. The type of copy provided shall be within the discretion of the public agency, except (1) the agency shall provide a certified copy whenever requested, and (2) if the applicant does not have access to a computer or facsimile machine, the public agency shall not send the applicant an electronic or facsimile copy.  The fee for any copy provided in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act:  
     14. It is found that the requested records are public records within the meaning of §§1-200(5), 1-210(a), and 1-212(a), G.S.
     15. It is found that, under cover letter dated November 4, 2013, the respondents provided the complainant with a CD-ROM of all of the emails responsive to the request described in paragraphs 4.b, 4.c, and 4.d, above.  It is further found that the respondents also created a chart for the complainant, which contained the names of all of the individuals who were identified by the complainant and indicated whether or not, at the time the search was conducted, such individuals had active email accounts on the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services’ server.  It is found that, at that time, the respondents informed the complainant that they were continuing to work on the request with respect to the disciplinary and promotional records described in paragraph 4.a, above, and that they expected to have such records prepared for the complainant within the next 10 business days.
     16. It is found that, under cover letter dated November 7, 2014, the respondents provided the complainant disciplinary and promotional records electronically, and waived the fee for such records. 
     17. It is found that, by email dated November 22, 2013, the complainant corresponded with the respondents, indicating that there were many problems with the disclosure, including the fact that the records did not contain the “race and gender” of the employees, as requested on September 30, 2013 (see ¶ 8, above); that some of the records did not go back as far as January 1, 2000 (here, presumably the complainant was referring to the respondents’ production of the disciplinary and promotional records and his request for records set forth in paragraph 4.a, above); and that there was some electronic block on the CD-ROM requiring a password.
     18. It is found that, by email dated November 25, 2013, the respondents electronically forwarded the complainant a revised disclosure of disciplinary and promotional records, which now contained a “race and gender” field, along with instructions on how to access the data.  It is further found that the respondents inquired as to which records the complainant sought as of January 1, 2000.
     19. Finally, it is found that, under cover letter dated March 4, 2014, the respondents provided the complainant with three additional records that they had overlooked in compiling their previous disclosures.  In addition, it is found that the respondents had discovered “three work rule violation databases from 2000 to 2003,” and, in an attempt to be overly inclusive, the respondents provided the complainant with all of the records contained in said databases as well.3

3
It is further found that the respondents' March 5, 2014 letter also served as an acknowledgement for additional requests that they had received from the complainant on January 18, 2014, February 8, 2014, and February 28, 2014.
     20. At the June 19, 2014 contested case hearing, the complainant contended that he had not received all of the email records that he requested, that some of the emails did not match the subject lines, that perhaps the emails had been tampered with, and that some of the metadata that he had requested was not provided.
     21. The respondents testified, and it is found, that they provided the complainant with all of the email records for the individuals identified in the request if such individuals had live email accounts on the respondents’ system at the time the records were gathered.  It is found, to the extent such people did not have a live email account on DMHAS’ system at the time of the search, DMHAS did not have access to such records.
     22. With regard to the contention that the subject lines and the body of the emails being inconsistent, the respondents testified, and it is found that, some of the emails were automatic responses, such as “out of office responses,” and that, while it may have appeared that the body of the emails and the subject lines did not correspond to each other, no emails had been tampered with or changed in any manner prior to being provided to the complainant. 
     23. With regard to the contention concerning missing metadata, it is found that the respondents provided the complainant with the metadata indicated in the complainant’s September 30, 2013 clarification letter (see ¶ 8, above).  While the complainant contends that the respondents should have understood the term “metadata” to mean more than what was indicated in the letter, it is found that it was reasonable for the respondents to have understood the request for “metadata” to be a request for exactly what was delineated by the complainant—that is, the from, the send, the subject and the data sections pertaining to the requested emails.  It found that the respondents did provide the complainant with the categories of metadata that he had delineated.
     24. The complainant also seemed to contend at the contested case hearing that the provision of the records to him was not prompt.
     25. It is found that, with the exception of the few records that the respondents overlooked and provided to the complainant in March 2014, it actually only took the respondents approximately 25 days from the time they received the complainant’s September 30, 2013 clarification letter to gather and provide the complainant with the requested records.  See ¶¶ 8, 15-18, above.
     26. The Commission has previously opined that the word "promptly" in §1-210, G.S., means "quickly and without undue delay, taking into account all of the factors presented by a particular request . . . [including] the volume of statements requested; the amount of personnel time necessary to comply with the request; the time by which the requester needs the information contained in the statements; the time constraints under which the agency must complete its other work; the importance of the records to the requester, if ascertainable; and the importance to the public of completing the other agency business without loss of the personnel time involved in complying with the request."  See FOI Commission Advisory Opinion #51 (Jan. 11, 1982).  The Commission also recommended in Advisory Opinion #51 that, if immediate compliance is not possible, the agency should explain the circumstances to the requester.
     27. It is found that, once the respondents’ Freedom of Information Officer, Doreen Del Bianco, had the clarification that she needed, she forwarded the request to the Director of Human Resources and the Director of Information Technology for processing.
     28. It is further found that the Director of Information Technology engaged the assistance of a contractor, CT Computer Service, to gather the email records, to convert them from a GroupWise format into an Outlook format, and to burn them to a CD.  It is found that it took the consultant who was assigned to this project approximately 100 hours to gather and convert the emails for the Director of Information Technology. 
     29. It is further found that, once all of the records were gathered and prepared electronically, they were forwarded to Ms. Del Bianco and were then provided to the complainant. 
     30. With regard to the request for emails, it is found that the respondents provided the complainant with over 40,000 emails.  With regard to the request for human resources records, it is found that the respondents provided the complainant with all of the responsive records.  Finally, it is found that the respondents did not withhold or redact any of the responsive records.
     31. Based on the foregoing, it is concluded that the respondents’ provision of the requested records to the complainant was prompt, and that they did not violate the disclosure provisions of the FOI Act.
     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 July 23, 2014.
__________________________
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:
John Hollis
16 Beffa Road
Stafford Springs, CT  06076
Commissioner, State of Connecticut,
Department of Mental Health and
Addiction Services; and State of
Connecticut, Department of Mental
Health and Addiction Services,   
Jacqueline S. Hoell, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
State of Connecticut,
Office of the Attorney General
55 Elm Street
P.O. Box 120
Hartford, CT  06106
____________________________
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission

FIC/2013-662/FD/cac/7/23/2014