Final Decision FIC2015-115
In the Matter of a Complaint by
||Docket #FIC 2015-115|
Chief, Police Department, Town of
Plainville; Police Department, Town
of Plainville; and Town of Plainville,
October 14, 2015
The above-captioned matter was scheduled to be heard as a contested case on July 23, 2015, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared.
For purposes of hearing, the above-captioned matter was consolidated with Docket #FIC 2015-096; Robert Cushman v. Chief, Police Department, Town of Plainville; Police Department, Town of Plainville; and Town of Plainville.
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 January 22, 2015, the complainant made a request to the respondents for a copy of any and all records regarding a Geoffrey E. Carlson and his arrest on January 10, 2015, created by certain specifically identified personnel of the respondent department. The complainant also requested records related to certain officers’ training and use of the Alcotest 9510 (which is a breathalyzer machine), and “each and every test and external standard performed” on that machine between December 1, 2014 and January 16, 2015. The complainant also requested a copy of the respondent department’s administrative and organizational manuals, files, or folders on certain equipment and department/police procedures.
3. By letter dated February 4, 2015 and received on February 17, 2015, the complainant appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to comply with his records request.
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, 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.”
7. It is concluded that, to the extent that the respondents maintain the requested records, such records are public records within the meaning of §1-200(5), 1-210(a), and 1-212(a), G.S.
8. At the hearing on this matter, the complainant contended that the respondents were not prompt in complying with his request and that he needed the records for a court proceeding in which he was representing a client. The complainant contended that because he did not have the records he requested, the proceeding was continued and he was forced to serve a subpoena on the respondents in order to obtain some of the requested records. The complainant further contended at the hearing that, in light of the respondents’ delay in complying with his request, the respondents should be found in violation of the FOI Act and required to provide the balance of the records responsive to his request free of charge.
9. 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 records requested; the amount of personnel time necessary to comply with the request; the time by which the requester needs the information contained in the record; 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.
10. It is found that the complainant’s January 22, 2015 request is repetitive, difficult to understand, extremely broad and voluminous. It is also found that the complainant’s letter of request does not indicate the time by which he needed the information contained in the requested records.
11. It is also found that the respondents were working to comply with a very similar records request made by the complainant and it is found that the respondent chief initially thought the complainant’s January 22, 2015 request was simply a copy of the same request and was sent again inadvertently.
12. It is found that the respondent chief contacted the complainant’s office, as early as February 3, 2015, to have the January 22, 2015 request clarified, and to learn which records he should compile and provide to the complainant first, because he estimated that it would take weeks to comply with the entire request given its breadth and the volume of records that would be compiled. In this regard, it is found that the respondent chief worked regularly with the complainant’s paralegal to provide records on a rolling basis.
13. It is found that the respondents reviewed the responsive records for any applicable exemptions which took time, again, because of the volume of records that were compiled.
14. It is found that, as of the date of the hearing in this matter, the complainant was provided with some of the records responsive to his request pursuant, in part, to the subpoena he issued and, in part, to the arrangements made between the chief and the complainant’s paralegal.
15. It is found that a copy of the remainder of the records responsive to the complainant’s request have been compiled and are available to the complainant provided he pays the three hundred dollar fee for them. It is also found that the records have been available to the complainant since March 26, 2015.
16. Weighing all the factors related to the request, it is found that the respondents did not unduly delay complying with the complainant’s request in this case.
17. It is concluded, therefore, that the respondents did not violate the promptness provisions of §§1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., 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 October 14, 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:
705 North Mountain Road
Newington, CT 06111
Chief, Police Department, Town of Plainville; Police
Department, Town of Plainville; and Town of Plainville
c/o Michael W. Mastrianni, Esq.
Mastrianni & Seguljic
128 East Street
Plainville, CT 06062
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission