Brow v. Chief, Police Department, Town of East Haven
In the 2000 case of Wildin v. Freedom of Information Commission, the Appellate Court found that a records request did not require the agency to do research where the complainant specifically identified the records sought and there was no analysis required to search for the records or exercise of discretion as to whether the records fell within the request. Fred Brow appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission alleging that the East Haven Police Department and its chief violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to comply with his records request seeking all communications from members of the department since the chief's return to the date of the letter. The town attorney denied the request as overbroad, unduly burdensome and possibly involving the disclosure of exempt information and records. At the hearing, the respondents maintained that the request would require an unreasonably burdensome search and research. The respondents' records room employee, Captain Joseph Slane testified that compliance with the request would require significant time and manpower, two to three months working solely on the request. He asserted that if the complainant stated exactly what he was seeking, the response would be a lot easier and quicker. However, Slane testified that he understood the type of records sought and procedures involved in retrieving such records. In addition, Slane testified to becoming aware of the request two to three weeks before the hearing and did not see the actual request until the day of the hearing. The FOIC found that the request was reasonably clear and did not require research. The request covered a specific three week period. The town's attorney did not review any documents or confer with Slane before denying the request. Approximately seven-and-a-half month after the request, the respondents had not yet started working on the request. The FOIC found that the respondents violated the FOIA as alleged. The respondents were ordered to strictly comply henceforth with the disclosure requirements of C.G.S. §1-210(a) and to undertake a diligent search forthwith and promptly to provide copies of any responsive records to the complainant.