Edelman v. Beets, Town Manager, Town of Windham
The Freedom of Information Act does not require a public agency to inform a requester in writing that there are no responsive records. Steven Edelman inspected building permit receipt books maintained by the Windham town clerk and discovered no records before 2003. He requested to inspect the state librarian's written authorization to destroy the permit receipts for the years prior to 2003. No such authorization was found. Edelman received no response to his written request for the clerk to confirm that the town could not locate either the building permit receipts books from before 2003 or a state librarian document authorizing destruction of the receipts issued after 1993. He sent a letter dated July 13, 2011to the clerk asking to inspect the document destruction authorizations encompassing building permit receipt books for Jan. 1, 1994 through Dec. 31, 2002 and a letter to the building official asking to inspect building permit receipt books for Jan. 1, 1994 through Dec. 31, 2002. The town manager, Neal Beets, responded, essentially, that Edelman was free to check with the state librarian for the documents sought and that the respondents were unable to identify any other place where the documents Edelman was unable to locate would be. Following further correspondence, Edelman appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission alleging that the respondents, the town manager, town clerk and town, violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to provide him with accurate and forthright responses to his July 13, 2011 requests. The respondents did not attend the hearing and provided no evidence to explain or contradict the complainant's statement of facts. The FOIC found that all of the respondents' responses, while arguably not as clear and forthright as they could have been, indicated that neither the building permit receipts prior to 2003 nor a written authorization to destroy them could be found by the respondents. The FOIC concluded that neither record sought existed. Because the FOIA does not require a public agency to inform a requester in writing that there are no responsive records, the respondents did not violate the FOIA as alleged. The complaint was dismissed.