Harrington v. Hunt
Timely access to public records by persons seeking them is a fundamental right conferred by the Freedom of Information Act. Michael Harrington of the law firm of Murtha Cullina appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission alleging that CRRA, the Connecticut Resources and Recovery Authority and Laurie Hunt, CRRA's legal affairs department director, failed to comply with his Nov. 21, 2011 request for various records including all communications for certain dates between the CRRA staff and board and Tom Ritter, Peter Boucher and Lawrence Cafero. The FOIC found that upon receipt of the request, Hunt immediately requested a search for responsive emails. Over 10,000 pages of responsive records were located. Hunt provided certain records to the complainant and notified him that other information requested was available on the CRRA website. In March 2012, the respondents completed their review of various records including those responsive to a request for communications concerning requests for bid for the municipal liason contract and provided access to the complainant. Hunt began review of requested communications with Ritter and had not reviewed communications with Boucher. She could not estimate when she would complete review. The FOIC considered such factors as Hunt's other work and that she is the only "in house" attorney at CRRA and lacked staff to assist with reviewing and responding to FOI requests. The FOIC found, however, that CRRA has eight outside firms that it contracts with to assist with legal matters. Hunt testified that this was the largest, most extensive FOIA request she had received. She stopped working on it for approximately one month due to a copy fee dispute with the complainant. She then was out of the office for most of May due to personal reasons. The FOIC found that the respondents violated the promptness provisions of C.G.S. §1-210(a) and §1-212(a) as alleged and were directed to comply, henceforth, with those provisions. The respondents were direct to adopt a schedule for completion and to provide responsive records within 90 days. A privilege log is to be provided for records claimed exempt. Nonexempt records are to be disclosed on a rolling basis free of charge.