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Final Decision FIC2015-005
In the Matter of a Complaint by
FINAL DECISION
Vorcelia Oliphant,
     Complainant
     against
Docket #FIC 2015-005
Tax Collector, City of Meriden; and City
of Meriden,
     Respondents
September 9, 2015

     The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 7, 2015, 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 on October 20, 2014, the complainant requested a copy of all records for the tax bill for her property as of September 30, 2014.  The complainant also sought a certified copy of the Release of Lis Pendens on her property, and “information” concerning a mistaken identification of a neighboring address as her address on the City’s tax website.
     3.  By letter mailed January 4, 2015, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to provide her with copies of all of the records she requested. 
     4.  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.
     5.  It is found that all the records requested by the complainant are public records within the meaning of §§1-200(5), 1-210(a), and 1-212(a), G.S., to the extent that such records exist and are maintained by the respondents.
     6.  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.
     7.  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.  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[.]”
     8.  Section 1-212(e), G.S., provides: 
Except as otherwise provided by law, the fee for any person who has the custody of any public records or files for certifying any copy of such records or files, or certifying to any fact appearing therefrom, shall be for the first page of such certificate, or copy and certificate, one dollar; and for each additional page, fifty cents.  For the purpose of computing such fee, such copy and certificate shall be deemed to be one continuous instrument.
     9.  It is found that when the respondents received the complainant’s request, the respondent tax collector was out on bereavement leave.  It is found that tax collector’s office was in an unusually busy period dealing with water shut-offs.  It is found that by mid-November, the task of responding to the complainant’s October 20, 2014 letter was assigned to the Delinquent Collector of Revenue in the tax collector’s office.  It is found that the Delinquent Collector of Revenue was unfamiliar with the FOI Act and had never received, nor responded to, a request for records pursuant to the FOI Act.
     10. It is found that the Delinquent Collector of Revenue researched and answered the complainant’s concerns about alleged tax delinquencies on her property.  It is found that the complainant’s letter of October 20, 2014, contained not only requests for records, as described in paragraph 2, above, but also general requests for information and explanation concerning the tax collection history associated with the complainant’s property. 
     11. It is found that on November 24, 2014, the Delinquent Collector of Revenue completed a letter to the complainant in which she attempted to explain the relevant tax history for the complainant’s property and to address the complainant’s concerns that she had been billed for taxes that already had been paid.
     12. It is found that the Delinquent Collector of Revenue enclosed a print out of the Payment History Report associated with the complainant’s property from 2012 through September 30 2014. 
     13. It is found that on December 4, 2014, after further communication from the complainant disputing her tax payment history, the attorney for the respondents provided the complainant with another copy of the November 24, 2014 letter, which the complainant said she had not received, along with the Payment History Report.  The attorney also provided a copy of the relevant Real Estate Delinquent Statement, and a copy of the Release of Lis Pendens.
     14. It is found that the Release of Lis Pendens was not a certified copy.
     15. It is concluded that the respondents violated §1-212(a), G.S., by failing to provide a certified copy of the release.
     The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:

     1.  The respondents shall forthwith provide the complainant with a certified copy of the Release of Lis Pendens, free of charge.
     2.   Henceforth, the respondents shall strictly comply with §1-212(a), G.S.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of September 9, 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:
Vorcelia Oliphant
278 Broad Street
Meriden, CT  06450
Tax Collector, City of Meriden; and City of Meriden
c/o John H. Gorman, Esq.
Office of the Corporation Counsel
142 East Main Street, Suite 240
Meriden, CT  06450
____________________________
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC/2015-005/FD/cac/9/9/2015