Carlson v. Mayor, Town of Vernon
Nothing in the Freedom of Information act requires the employees of a public agency, or public officials, necessarily, to interrupt their work to immediately fulfill a request to inspect or copy records; rather, the public agency is required to respond to such requests promptly. Suzanne Carlson and the Journal Inquirer appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission alleging that the respondents, the town of Vernon and its mayor, violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to comply with their request for records. The FOIC found that on Sept. 29, 2011, Carlson left a voice mail message on the mayor's cell phone requesting to inspect a copy of a contract between the town and the law firm of Blackwell, Davis & Spadaccini. The mayor responded, via email, asking Carlson not to call his cell phone and to make an appointment with his executive assistant to schedule a meeting. Carlson called the mayor's office and spoke with his assistant. She again asked to inspect the contract and scheduled a meeting with the mayor for Nov. 7, 2011. The respondents provided the complainants with a copy of the requested contract on Oct. 18, 2011 and the mayor provided another copy on Nov. 7, 2011. The complainants argued that the respondents violated the FOIA by failing to permit them to inspect the record immediately, upon demand, and required them to make an appointment to inspect it. While nothing in the FOIA requires public employees or officials, necessarily, to interrupt their work to immediately fulfill a request to inspect or copy records, the public agency is required to respond to such requests promptly. The respondents failed to offer evidence as to why it took the mayor more than a month to comply with the request. The FOIC found that the respondents failed to respond to the request promptly and violated the promptness provisions of C.G.S. §1-210(a) and §1-212(a). The respondents were directed to strictly comply, henceforth, with the violated provisions.