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Final Decision FIC2011-203
In the Matter of a Complaint by
FINAL DECISION
James Findley,
     Complainant
     against
Docket #FIC 2011-203
Chairman, Housing Authority, Town
of Mansfield; and Housing Authority,
Town of Mansfield,
     Respondents
January 25, 2012

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on August 30, 2011, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. 
At the hearing on this matter the complainant indicated that his last name had been misspelled.  The caption has been corrected to reflect the correct spelling of the complainant’s last name.
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 the complainant’s father is a resident in Wright’s Village, a property managed by the respondent housing authority, and that, at some time in January 2011, the snow on his father’s walkway had not been timely removed.  It is found that the complainant attempted to make a complaint at the respondent housing authority’s office on a day that it was closed to the public.  It is found that the complainant became frustrated by the fact that while he could see employees in the office working, they would not open the doors to him.   It is found that the complainant attended the February 17, 2011 board meeting of the respondent housing authority and made a complaint about the snow that was not timely removed from his father’s walkway and about the housing authority’s office being closed. 
3. By letter dated March 19, 2011, the complainant made a request to the respondents for a copy of the minutes for the February 17, 2011 board meeting of the respondent housing authority and for  an “in-house review” of the following:
     a. All correspondence, both written and electronic (e-mail), from Director Rebecca Fields to Office Manager Karen Matychak during the period of January 13, 2011 - January 24, 2011; and
     b. All correspondence, both written and electronic (e-mail), from Office Manager Karen Matychak to Director Rebecca Fields during the period of January 13, 2011 – January 24, 2011.
4. By letter dated March 24, 2011, the respondent chairman provided the complainant with a copy of the minutes from the February 17, 2011 board meeting.
5. It is found, however, that the respondent chairman understood the complainant’s request for “an in-house” review to mean a review by him, the chairman.  It is found, therefore, that in his March 24, 2011 letter of response, the respondent chairman explained his understanding of the second portion of complainant’s request and stated the following: 
     Your letter does not state specifically the correspondence for which I should look. I assumed that you mean correspondence from January 13, 2011 to January 24, 2011, about your father’s residence in the Wright’s Village ….There is no written correspondence in the office and most likely never was, since the offices are small and next to each other.  Much daily information is probably shared verbally.
6. It is found that by letter dated March 28, 2011, the complainant clarified his request stating that he was requesting an opportunity to review the records described in paragraph 3a and b, above, himself.
7.  By letter dated April 4, 2011, the respondent chairman stated again that there were no records responsive to the complainant’s request related to or concerning his father, or the complaint he made, during the time period requested. 
8. It is found that by letter dated April 6, 2011, the complainant indicated that his March 19, 2011 request was not limited to records related to him or his father but rather his request was to inspect any and all records responsive to the request described in paragraph 3a and b, above. 
9. By letter dated April 15, 2011 and filed in April 18, 2011, the complainant appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to comply with his request.
10. 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. 
11. 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 . . . receive a copy of such records in accordance with section 1-212. 
12. Section 1-212(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that “[a]ny person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record.”
13. It is found that the records described in paragraph 3a and b, above, are public records within the meaning of §§1-200(5), 1-210(a), and 1-212(a), G.S.
14. It is found that the respondent housing authority’s office is very small and the desks of Rebecca Fields and Karen Matychak are eight feet apart and thus they communicate verbally rather than via e-mail. 
15. It is found that the respondent chairman, nonetheless, sat at the computers of Rebecca Fields and Karen Matychak and searched through their e-mail accounts for records responsive to the complainant’s request. 
16. The chairman testified and it is found that there are no records responsive to the complainant’s request described in paragraph 3a and b, above, because, as stated above, Rebecca Fields and Karen Matychak do not e-mail each other.
17. Consequently, 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 January 25, 2012.
__________________________
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:
James Findley
414 S. Eagleville Road
Storrs, CT  06268
Chairman, Housing Authority, Town of Mansfield;
c/o Richard P. Long
Chairman, Housing Authority,
Town of Mansfield
309 Maple Road
 Storrs, CT  06268
and;
Housing Authority, Town of Mansfield
c/o Rebecca M. Fields
Housing Authority, Town of Mansfield
309 Maple Road
Storrs, CT  06268
____________________________
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC/2011-203/FD/cac/1/25/2012