Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection v. Freedom of Information Commission
Connecticut General Statutes §29-10b only requires the payment of a $16 fee in order to obtain a copy of a police accident report and does not require a fee to inspect a police accident report. The defendant, American News and Information Services Inc., sought to inspect police accident reports prepared by Connecticut State Troopers Charles Lavoie or Timothy Begley, because they allegedly only issued warnings to a police officer who was in a one-car, motor-vehicle accident. Employees at the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection apparently responded it would cost $6,352 to inspect 397 reports, because each report cost $16. American News filed a complaint to the Freedom of Information Commission, which found that the department violated C.G.S. §1-210(a) and ordered the department to permit American News to inspect the police accident reports for free, pursuant to C.G.S. §1-210(a). The department appealed to the Superior Court and argued that C.G.S. §29-10b governs. The statute provides, "The Commissioner of Public Safety shall charge the following fees . . . Each copy of an accident . . . report . . . sixteen dollars." The department's employee testified that obtaining that many police accident reports for inspection is time consuming, and the department should receive compensation for the extra administrative work. The court found that the plain language of the statute permits a $16 fee only for a copy of a police accident report and not to inspect police accident reports. C.G.S. §29-10c provides that accident reports "shall be open to public inspection." The Freedom of Information Commission's decision was not arbitrary, illegal or an abuse of discretion, and the court dismissed the department's appeal.