Final Decision FIC2012-156
In the Matter of a Complaint by
Robert C. Hunt, Jr.,
||Docket #FIC 2012-156|
Assessor, Town of Andover; and
Town of Andover,
November 14, 2012
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on August 31, 2012, 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, by letter dated February 22, 2012, the complainant requested that the respondents permit him to inspect and copy (as desired) the following records:
a. All documents, writings, field notes, property record cards of comparables, comparable properties identified, photographs, books, manuals, electronic recordings including email, publications, communications in any format with anyone including employees of Vision Government Solutions (“Vision”), or memoranda of any such communications relative to property at 40 Townsend Road (“Property”) and the Revaluation thereof for the 1 October 2011 Grand List of the Town;
b. All criteria used by the party, Vision, engaged by the Town to conduct the Revaluation for the 1 October 2011 Grand List relative to the Property including, but not limited to:
i. Pricing Tables or the like;
ii. Building Standards;
iii. Manual used by Vision; and
iv. Property Record Card for the Property provided to Vision for its contract work for the Town;
c. All documents considered by the Assessor when increasing the assessment on the Property from the $172,200, as approved by the Assessor on the last Grand List of 1 October 2010 and also as determined by judgment of the Connecticut Superior Court on 6 January 2011 after trial (Hunt v. Andover, No. CV 09 40113155) A. Aronson, Judge, to $175,000 on the 1 October 2011 Grand List; and
d. Property Record Cards for residential properties at 11 Wheeling Road and 14 Hebron Road, being the properties cited by the Court as being the most comparable to the Property in the 6 January decision.
3. It is found that, by letter dated February 27, 2012, the respondents acknowledged the complainant’s request. It is further found that, in the acknowledgement, the respondents informed the complainant that they were in the process of compiling the requested records and would contact him once the records were prepared. Finally, it is found that the respondents informed the complainant that he was welcome to come to the respondents’ office to review property cards, as these records were already available for review.
4. By letter dated March 16, 2012 and filed March 19, 2012, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by denying his request for access to and copies of the records described in paragraph 2, above.
5. 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.
6. 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. (Emphasis supplied).
7. 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.”
8. It is found that, by notice dated January 22, 2012, the respondents informed the complainant that assessment on his residential property within the respondent town had been increased.
9. It is found that the complainant requested that the town’s board of assessment schedule a hearing to consider a reduction in the increased assessment.
10. It is found that board of assessment scheduled a hearing on the complainant’s request for February 22, 2012.
11. It is further found that, in order to prepare for the February 22, 2012 board of assessment hearing, the complainant presented the request described in paragraph 2, above, to the respondents.
12. It is found that, on or about October 1, 2011, the respondents contracted with Vision Government Solutions (“Vision”) to assist them with the town’s reevaluation process.
13. It is found that, at the outset of the revaluation process, the town presented Vision with certain agency materials, such as a copy of the town assessor’s data base, a copy of the 2010 Grand List and a full set of tax maps.
14. It is found that, in conjunction with performing its reevaluation duties, Vision would print out property cards of properties that had recently sold and later drive by such properties to conduct a visual inspection. It is found that, during the visual inspections, the Vision agent conducting the inspections would take notes on the property cards. It is further found that this handwritten information would be used by the agent at a later time in connection with adjusting the town’s tax tables and implementing a mass revaluation.
15. It is found that the respondents have a right to access records in the possession of Vision that have to do with the work that Vision is performing for the town.
16. It is found that the complainant, as part of his request, wanted access to, inter alia, the property cards on which notes had been taken by Vision during the visual inspection process.
17. It is found that the complainant believed that the respondents were in the process of obtaining the property cards referred to in paragraph 16, above, from Vision for his review.
18. It is found that the respondents did communicate with Vision to obtain the property cards, and any other documents in Vision’s possession, and that Vision agreed to turn such records over to the respondents. However, it is found that Vision later informed the respondents that, other than a revaluation methodology handbook, the records in Vision’s possession, including the property cards with its agent’s handwritten notes, had been inadvertently discarded.
19. It is therefore found that, at the time the complaint was filed in this case, the records to which the complainant wanted access were no longer available. It is further found that the records’ unavailability arose through no fault of the respondents.
20. It is found that other than the town’s own original property cards referred to in paragraph 3, above, the respondents were only able to retrieve from Vision a revaluation methodology handbook for the complainant’s review.
21. It is found that, given the fact that the complainant was preparing for a board of assessment hearing, it would have been extremely helpful if the respondents had specifically informed the complainant that all of the available records had been provided to him, that the respondents were only able to obtain from Vision the revaluation methodology handbook, as other materials had been inadvertently discarded, and that the complainant should now disregard the respondents’ acknowledgement letter to the extent that it stated that additional records were being “compiled” for his review. See ¶ 3, above.
22. Nonetheless, based on the finding in paragraph 19, above, it is concluded that the respondents did not violate §§1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., as alleged in the complaint.
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 November 14, 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:
Robert C. Hunt, Jr.
c/o Daniel J. Klau, Esq.
McElroy, Deutsh, Mulvaney & Carpenter, LLP
One State Street
Hartford, CT 06106
Assessor, Town of Andover; and
Town of Andover
c/o Aimee L. Wickless, Esq.
Brown Jacobson P.C.
22 Courthouse Square
P.O. Box 391
Norwich, CT 06360
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission