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Agency must search for and compile public records

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    NMU         CONNECTICUT         Freedom of Information         Feb 16, 2000    

Agency must search for and compile public records

  • The fact that requested records must be assembled from multiple files does not create an undue burden on the government.

A three-judge panel of the state appeals court in Hartford ruled Feb. 15 that a government agency must comply with a request for public records even if the records are maintained in dozens of different files.

Searching for and compiling the records from the various files does not place an undue burden on the agency that the state’s Freedom of Information Act intended to protect against, the court ruled.

“A record request that is simply burdensome does not make that request one requiring research,” Judge E. Eugene Spear wrote for the court. “Here, the plaintiff had specifically identified the records he sought and there was no analysis required to search for the records. More importantly, the plaintiff’s request did not require the defendants to exercise discretion as to whether the records fell within the plaintiff’s request.”

In 1996, William Wildin requested the town of New Milford turn over correspondence between the mayor and the town attorney. The town released some records but declined to release all of them.

Wildin appealed to the state’s Freedom of Information Commission, which ruled that the records did not have to be released regardless of whether they were public. Because the records were kept in so many different files, the town would have to conduct research to find the documents and comply with the request, the commission ruled. The record law did not require state agencies or local governments to conduct research when processing a request for records, the commission explained.

Wildin appealed to a state trial court, which ruled in his favor, prompting the town to appeal to the state appeals court in Hartford.

(Wildin v. Freedom of Information Commission; Counsel: William Wildin, pro se)

© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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