Wood v. Mayor, Town of Vernon
Under the Freedom of Information Act, the respondent mayor was not permitted to charge his private hourly rate as an attorney or his hourly pay for the mayor's position to search and retrieve public records for a records request. The complainants, Alexander Wood, Suzanne Carlson and the Manchester Journal Inquirer, requested that the mayor of the town of Vernon provide them with copies of all written or electronically transmitted correspondence sent to or from Christopher Bandecchi and any and all written or electronic correspondence sent to Bandecchi by Mayor Jason McCoy. The respondent mayor acknowledged the request and then forwarded an invoice to the complainants of $950 representing a $600 charge for "email retrieval" and a $350 charge for "email search and pdf for FOI." The respondent posited initially that he could charge for programming at his hourly rate as a private attorney and calculated the $950 charge by multiplying his private hourly rate of $250 times 3.8 hours. The respondent located 117 pages of emails responsive to the request. The complainants appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information Act by charging them search and retrieval costs for copies of records responsive to their request. The Freedom of Information Commission found that the respondent failed to prove that he performed "programming or formatting functions" within the meaning of C.G.S. §1-212(b)(1). Rather, the respondent engaged in "search and retrieval." Consequently, under the FOIA, the respondent was permitted to charge only the maximum permissible fee of 50 cents per page as set forth in C.G.S. §1-212(a) and not his $250 hourly rate as an attorney or the $11 hourly pay for the mayor's position. The respondent also failed to provide the complainants with copies of all responsive records. He thereby violated the disclosure provisions of C.G.S. §1-210(a), §1-212(a) and §1-212. The FOIC directed the respondent to provide the complainant with copies of the records free of charge and to make a diligent search to determine whether any further records were maintained responsive to the request. If located, such records are to be provided to the complainants promptly and free of charge.