Final Decision FIC2012-348
In the Matter of a Complaint by
||Docket #FIC 2012-348|
Commissioner, State of Connecticut,
Department of Emergency Services and
Public Protection, Division of State Police;
and State of Connecticut, Department of
Emergency Services and Public Protection,
Division of State Police,
June 12, 2013
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 5, 2012, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. Due to technical problems with the Commission’s recording software, no audio recording was made of the November 5th hearing, and the hearing was re-held on February 4, 2013, at the request of the complainant, in order to create a record of the proceedings.
At the request of the respondents, this Commission takes administrative notice of the record and final decision in Docket #FIC 2012-205, James Torlai v. Commissioner, State of Connecticut, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, Division of State Police; and State of Connecticut, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, Division of State Police.
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 letter of complaint dated June 25, 2012 and filed on June 28, 2012, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to comply with his request for public records.
3. 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.
4. Sections 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., state, respectively, in relevant parts:
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.
Any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain, facsimile, electronic or certified copy of any public record.
5. It is concluded that the requested records are public records within the meaning of §§1-200(5), 1-210(a), and 1-212(a), G.S.
6. It is found that, by letter dated May 3, 2012, the complainant made a request to the respondents for a copy of all recordings made by equipment in the police car driven by the arresting officer in case #1100332907. The complainant clarified in that letter that he was requesting not only video recordings but also audio, video, data or other recordings and any combination of audio, video, data or other recordings made on June 16, 2011 that are related to case #1100332907.
7. It is found that case #1100332907 pertains to the arrest of the complainant.
8. It is found that the respondents acknowledged the complainant’s May 3, 2012 request by letter dated May 9, 2012. It is further found that the complainant again contacted the respondents by letter dated June 13, 2012, and inquired about progress on his request.
9. It is found that the respondents provided the complainant with a copy of an audio recording on August 17, 2012. It is also found, however, that the complainant believed that other recordings exist but were not provided to him.
10. The testimony at the November 5, 2012 hearing principally concerned the existence of a video recording of the traffic stop of the complainant. It is found that no recording of that stop exists, due to a malfunction of the equipment at the time of the stop.
11. At the re-held hearing of February 4, 2013, the complainant claimed that records responsive to his request exist on the respondents’ CAD system that have not been provided to him.
12. It is found that the CAD system can loosely be described as a computer system used in state police cars and that it records when an officer runs a marker plate, and searches for driver’s license information, arrest warrants, previous arrests or infractions.
13. It is found that the CAD system was used in case #1100332907 and that the complainant was not provided with any copies of those records.
14. At the hearing on this matter, the respondents stated that they would provide the complainant with a copy of the records from the CAD system for case #1100332907.
15. The complainant also claimed that the respondents’ compliance was not prompt.
16. Section 1-212(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that "any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record."
17. The Commission has held that the meaning of the word "promptly" is a particularly fact-based question. In Advisory Opinion #51, In the Matter of a Request for Declaratory Ruling, Third Taxing District of the City of Norwalk, Applicant (Notice of Final Decision dated January 11, 1982), the Commission advised that the word "promptly," as used in §1-210(a), G.S., means quickly and without undue delay, taking into consideration all of the factors presented by a particular request.
18. The advisory opinion goes on to describe some of the factors that should be considered in weighing a request for records against other priorities: the volume of records requested; the time and personnel required to comply with a request; the time by which the person requesting records needs them; 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 the loss of the personnel time involved in complying with the request.
19. It is found that the employee that was responsible for responding to the complainant’s request left the employ of the respondents before providing the complainant with any record responsive to the request. It is found that it was not until after the respondents received notice of the complaint in this matter that they became aware that the complainant had an outstanding records request. It is found that the respondents failed to timely confirm that the employee had complied with the request or, in the alternative, transfer the complainant’s request to another employee for compliance.
20. It is found that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, the respondent's provision of the requested records above, was not prompt within the meaning of §§1-210(a), and 1-212(a), G.S.
21. It is therefore concluded that the respondents violated §§1-210(a), and 1-212(a), G.S., by failing to promptly comply with the complainant’s request.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. If they have not already done so, the respondents shall provide the complainant with a copy of the records described in paragraph 14 of the findings, above, free of charge, within 10 days of the notice of final decision in this matter.
2. Henceforth, the respondents shall strictly comply with the promptness provisions of §§1-210(a), and 1-212(a), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 12, 2013.
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:
127 Barton Street
Torrington, CT 06790
Commissioner, State of Connecticut, Department of Emergency
Services and Public Protection, Division of State Police;
and State of Connecticut, Department of Emergency Services
and Public Protection, Division of State Police
c/o Terrence M. O’Neill, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
State of Connecticut,
Office of the Attorney General
110 Sherman Street
Hartford, CT 06105
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission