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Greenwich man wins first battle for access to town's mapping database

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  1. Freedom of Information

    NMU         CONNECTICUT         Freedom of Information         Oct 30, 2002    

Greenwich man wins first battle for access to town’s mapping database

  • The town of Greenwich may have to provide mapping information to a man seeking to market property information.

The town of Greenwich, Conn. cannot withhold information maintained in its computerized mapping system by citing security concerns, according to a hearing officer with the state’s Freedom of Information Commission.

Stephen Whitaker, a Greenwich resident, will have unfettered access to Greenwich’s road and sewer maps, property assessment data and aerial photographs, assuming that the five-member Freedom of Information Commission follows the hearing officer’s recommendation. The data are contained in the city’s computer mapping system, known as a geographic information system.

Citing potential terrorist threats, the town of Greenwich contended that releasing the information would make it easier for terrorists to attack the town and could “compromise law enforcement communications networks,” according to a report released Oct. 22 by FOI Commission hearing officer Mary Schwind.

In her report Schwind called the town’s claims “speculative in nature, and as such, cannot justify withholding records under the FOI Act.” She said the records should be released.

Schwind also found that the information requested did not threaten the “security or integrity of [the town’s] information technology system,” an exemption that would have make this information inaccessible.

Whitaker requested that the information be derived directly from the $3 million publicly financed database. Whittaker hoped to sell property and tax assessments to homeowners, according to a report by the Greenwich Time.

Currently, Vermont makes similar GIS information available on the Internet. Whitaker was involved in marketing publicly available GIS data when he was living in Vermont.

In the past, the commission has upheld findings similar to Schwind’s. If the commission accepts the recommendation, the town can file an appeal to state Superior Court.

First Selectman Richard Bergstresser, the town’s top elected official, told the Associated Press that the town plans to fight the hearing officer’s decision.

(Whitaker v. Department of Information Technology) GS

© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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