Thank you to everyone who made our annual FOI Conference a success. Missed the program? Click here to watch the CT-N broadcast

Final Decision FIC2015-605
In the Matter of a Complaint by
Brian Haberly,
Docket #FIC 2015-605
Superintendent of Schools, Fairfield Public
Schools; and Fairfield Public Schools,
June 22, 2016

     The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 14, 2015, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  On January 15, 2016 the respondents, at the request of the hearing officer, filed a package of documents that have collectively been marked as respondents’ exhibit 4.

     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 filed September 15, 2015, 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 certain public records. 
     3.  It is found that the complainant made an August 23, 2015 request to the respondents for:
... any and all letters, documents, emails, correspondences, statements, notes, reports, supporting documents, texts and findings (along with any and all information on any computer and/or cell phone) in reference to the investigation done dealing with the Christies Country Store invoice Ms. Anziano sent to the Riverfield School community via email and posted on Fairfield Public School’s Infinite Campus system on September 3, 2014.
     This information should include (but not be limited to) the dates and descriptions of any and all meetings and the minutes of any meetings and the description of who was at the meetings.
     4.  It is found that the August 23, 2015 request was a renewal of the same request first made on March 9, 2015.
     5.  It is found that the respondents on March 17, 2015 responded to the original March 9, 2015 request by advising the complainant that there were no records responsive to his request.
     6.  It is found that the so-called investigation referenced by the complainant in his March 9 and August 23, 2015 requests concerned an invoice issued by Christies Country Store for food, beer, wine and ice purchased for a school staff appreciation night.
     7.  It is found that the invoice was originally sent to Riverfield School, and indicated that the purchase was exempt from the state sales tax.
     8.  It is found that the invoice was subsequently amended on September 10, 2014 to exclude the charge for the beer and wine, and to collect the sales tax.
     9.  It is found that the invoice was paid in full by the principal of the school from her personal funds.
     10.  It is found that further correspondence ensued in May 2015 concerning the invoice (respondents’ exhibit 4), and that such correspondence has been provided to the complainant.
     11.  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.
     12.  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, (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. 
     13.  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.”
     14.  It is found that, at the time of the complainant’s original March 9, 2015 request, there was no documentary evidence of an investigation into the Christies invoice. It is found that the respondents’ Director of Finance and Business Services had reviewed disbursements electronically to verify that nothing was paid from school funds to Christies, and reported orally to two individuals, the Human Resources Director, and the Director of Elementary Education, but drafted no report, made no notes, and emailed no one. 
     15.  It is also found, however, that an amended invoice, proof of payment of that invoice, and some correspondence to the Fairfield Board of Education (collectively respondent’s exhibit 4) ensued between the complainant’s March 9 and August 23, 2015 requests.
     16.  The respondents maintain that the records described in paragraph 15, above, are beyond the scope of the complainant’s request, because they were not part of their investigation into the Christies Country Store issue, and that the respondents reasonably interpreted the complainant’s request as a request for records generated by the investigation.
     17.  It is found, however, that the request, described in paragraph 3, above, is sufficiently broad to encompass the documents described in paragraph 15, above.
     16.  It is also found that the records described in paragraph 15, above, were subsequently provided to the complainant, albeit at the request of the hearing officer.
     17.  It is concluded that the respondents violated §1-210(a), G.S., by failing to promptly provide the records described in paragraph 15, above.
     Under the facts and circumstances of this case, which indicate that the records ultimately provided to the complainant were generated between his March and August 2015 requests, and could have reasonably, if mistakenly, been understood by the respondents to be beyond the scope of his original March 2015 request, no order is recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned matter.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 22, 2016.

Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission

Brian Haberly
30 Duck Farm Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
Superintendent of Schools, Fairfield Public
Schools; and Fairfield Public Schools,
c/o Zachary D. Schurin, Esq.
Pullman & Comley, LLC
90 Statehouse Square
Hartford, CT  06103
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission