Final Decision FIC2014-461
In the Matter of a Complaint by
||Docket #FIC 2014-461|
First Selectman, Town of Newtown;
Chief, Police Department, Town of
Newtown; Police Department, Town
of Newtown; Town of Newtown;
Chair, Board of Education, Newtown
Public Schools; and Board of
Education, Newtown Public Schools,
July 8, 2015
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 23, and June 3, 2015, at which times the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.
For purposes of hearing, the above-captioned matter was consolidated with Docket #FIC 2014-823; Wolfgang Halbig v. Chief, Police Department, Town of Newtown; First Selectman, Town of Newtown; Town of Newtown; Chair, Board of Education, Newtown Public Schools; and Board of Education, Newtown Public Schools.
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. By letters dated April 25, 2014, the complainant, through counsel, made three separate requests to each of the respondents, for certain records including;
a. certain records related to the Sandy Hook Elementary School security system installed before December 14, 2012;
b. certain records related to the “porta potties” ordered from Chatfield Porta Potties of Southbury, Connecticut; and
c. a copy of the dash cam video from the vehicle of Newtown Police Officer Figol and from the vehicle of Newtown Police Lieutenant Sinko for December 14, 2012 from 6:00 a.m. through 6:00 p.m.
3. It is found that by letter dated May 2, 2014, counsel for the respondents informed the complainant that his request had been received and that the three agencies were compiling and reviewing records responsive to his request. It is found that, by that same letter, the respondents’ counsel discouraged the complainant from appearing at the respondents’ offices to inspect records until such time as a date and time had been agreed upon.
4. It is found that, by letter dated July 3, 2014, the complainant’s counsel reiterated his request and asked that the respondents indicate clearly whether responsive records would be provided or if the requests were being denied.
5. It is found that, by letter dated July 9, 2014, the respondents’ counsel provided a detailed written response and indicated that the responsive records, 38 in total, were available upon payment of the nineteen dollar copying fee.
6. It is found that, by letter dated July 17, 2014, the complainant, through counsel, appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to allow full and complete inspection and/or copying of the requested records within four business days of his request.
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, 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.
8. 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.
9. Section 1-212(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that “[a]ny person applying in writing shall receive promptly upon request, a plain, facsimile, electronic or certified copy of any public record.”
10. It is found that the requested records, to the extent they exist, are public records within the meaning of §§1-200(5), 1-210(a), and 1-212(a), G.S.
11. After taking evidence and hearing five and a half hours of testimony, over the course of two hearings, from both the respondents’ and complainant’s witnesses, it is found that the respondents have provided the complainant with all records responsive to his request maintained by the respondents respectively.
12. Specifically, it is found that the respondents provided the complainant with all the records they maintain regarding the installation of the security system at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and that there are no other responsive records; that no agency of the town ordered “porta potties” and, consequently, there are no records related to any “porta potties” ordered from Chatfield Porta Potties of Southbury, Connecticut; and that there is no dash cam video for Newtown Police Officer Figol because her vehicle did not have a dash cam video recorder on December 14, 2012.
13. At hearing on this matter, the complainant contended that he was not given a copy of the original dash cam video from Lieutenant Sinko’s vehicle because the video, when played, should have shown the date and time stamp. The complainant further contended that a copy of the same video obtained from by the Connecticut State Police shows such date and time stamp. The complainant indicated at the hearing that he wants a copy of the dash came video that shows the date and time stamp.
14. Notwithstanding the complainant’s contention in this regard, it is found that the respondent police department provided the complainant with a true copy of the dash cam video from Lieutenant Sinko’s vehicle.
15. At the hearing on this matter, the complainant contended that the respondents’ compliance was not prompt but rather one of obfuscation, delay and denial, all in violation of the FOI Act.
16. It is found, however, that in this case, the respondents’ compliance was nothing more than methodical, deliberate and rigidly precise.
17. It is concluded that the respondents did not violate the FOI Act as alleged by the complainant.
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.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of July 8, 2015.
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:
L.Kay Wilson, Esq.
Wilson Law Firm
2389 Main Street
Glastonbury, CT 06033
First Selectman, Town of Newtown; Chief, Police Department,
Town of Newtown; Police Department, Town of Newtown;
Town of Newtown; Chair, Board of Education, Newtown
Public Schools; and Board of Education, Newtown Public Schools
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