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Final Decision FIC2013-665
In the Matter of a Complaint by
FINAL DECISION
Edward Peruta and American News and
Information Services, Inc.,
     Complainants
     against
Docket #FIC 2013-665
Reuben Bradford, Commissioner, State of
Connecticut, Department of Emergency
Services and Public Protection; and State
of Connecticut, Department of Emergency
Services and Public Protection, 
     Respondents
July 23, 2014

     The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 27, 2014, at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  The matter was consolidated for hearing with docket #FIC 2013-666; Edward Peruta and American News and Information Services, Inc. v. Reuben Bradford, Commissioner, State of Connecticut, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection; and State of Connecticut, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.
     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 in mid-June 2013, the complainants requested a copy of the respondents’ criminal history database.
     3.  It is found that the respondents acknowledged receipt of the complainants’ request on June 12, 2013.
     4.  It is found that the respondents provided a copy of the database to the complainants on October 23, 2013. 
     5.  It is found that the database is customarily compiled quarterly, and the database provided to the complainants in October was current as of July 17, 2013.

     6.  By letter filed October 24, 2013, the complainants appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to promptly provide them with the records they requested.  The complainants requested the imposition of a civil penalty.
     7.  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, …whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.
     8.  Section 1-210(a), G.S., provides, in relevant part:
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, … or (3) receive a copy of such records in accordance with section 1-212.
     9.  Section 1-212(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:  “Any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain, facsimile, electronic or certified copy of any public record.”
10. It is concluded that the records requested by the complainants are public records within the meaning of §§1-200(5), 1-210(a), and 1-212(a), G.S.
     11. The only issue in this matter is whether the respondents’ compliance was prompt.
     12. It is found that, upon receipt of the complainants’ request, the respondents contacted the appropriate staff in order to provide the complainants with the records they requested.
     13. It is found that the respondents generally compile the criminal history extract on a quarterly basis, and that sometimes the run-date is a month or so later than planned.  It is found that the database for the quarter ending June 30 was compiled on July 17, 2013.
     14. It is found that the Legal Affairs Unit of the respondents received the database that was current as of July 17, 2013 no later than July 20, 2013.
     15. It is found that the CD containing the database sat on the desk of the attorney in the Legal Affairs Unit assigned to the complainants’ request until mid-October, when the complainants’ case was assigned to a different attorney in the Legal Affairs Unit.  It is found that the second attorney then sent the CD to the complainants, who received it on October 22, 2013.
     16. It is found that the CD provided to the complainants in October 2013 contained the most recent database export available.
     17. The respondents’ witness testified credibly that her department, which has responsibility for providing legal services to the respondents, was severely overburdened and understaffed during the period of time that the complainants’ request was pending. 
     18. The complainants contended that for years the respondents have offered excuses for their lack of promptness.  The complainants also observed that none of the information requested was exempt from disclosure and, therefore, required no time-consuming examination by legal staff for redactions. 
     19. Notwithstanding the respondents’ explanation for their tardy compliance, it is found that four months for compliance with the complainants’ request in this matter was not prompt. 
     20. It is concluded that the respondents violated §§1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., by failing to provide records to the complainants in a prompt manner.
     21. With respect to the complainants’ request for the imposition of a civil penalty, it is found that with the reassignment of several of the complainants’ requests for records to the second attorney in the respondents Legal Affairs Unit, the respondents appear to be making diligent efforts to comply in a more timely manner with the complainants’ numerous requests.
     22. After consideration of the entire record in this case, the Commission declines to consider the imposition of civil penalties against the respondents.  However, the Commission also advises the respondents that if similar unacceptable delays occur in the future, civil penalties may be warranted.
     The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:

     1.  Henceforth, the respondents shall strictly comply with the promptness requirements of §§1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S.
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:
Edward Peruta and American News and Information Services, Inc.
c/o Rachel Baird, Esq.
8 Church Street
Torrington, CT  06790
Reuben Bradford, Commissioner, State of Connecticut, Department
of Emergency Services and Public Protection; and State of Connecticut,
Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection
c/o Terrence M. O’Neill, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
State of Connecticut,
Office of the Attorney General
110 Sherman Street
Hartford, CT  06105

____________________________
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission

FIC/2013-665/FD/cac/7/23/2014