FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by
Brian Ruskin and Stratford
Docket #FIC 1999-441
Mark Barnhart, Town Manager,
June 14, 2000
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 17, 2000, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:
1. The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of §1-200(1), G.S. [formerly §1-18a(1), G.S.].
2. By letter of complaint dated September 17, 1999 and filed with the Commission on September 21, 1999, the complainants appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by denying them access to certain records, information and data, concerning the provision of fire and Emergency Medical Service (“EMS”) dispatch services within the town of Stratford.
3. It is found that, beginning in late June 1999 through the date of the filing of this appeal, the complainants and the respondent have engaged in a series of communications regarding access to the records described in paragraph 2, above.
4. It is found that the following records are at issue in this appeal:
a. i) Documentation of the total number of paramedic calls handled by Donna Best, and the corresponding dispatch incident numbers from January 1, 1999;
ii) Personnel rosters broken down annually, citing the names of all paramedic personnel associated with Stratford EMS, and hours volunteered as paramedics, broken down monthly, since the inception of the paramedic program in 1993;
iii) Personnel rosters broken down annually, citing the names of all Stratford EMS personnel who have attended paramedic training at the expense of the town, from 1993;
iv) Personnel rosters broken down annually, citing the names of all Stratford EMS personnel completing paramedic training from 1993; and
b. Certain dispatch records maintained by Southwest C-Med (“C-Med”), the company with whom the town has a contract for the provision of fire and EMS dispatch services.
5. With respect to the requests described in paragraph 4ai, 4aii, 4aiii and 4aiv, above, it is found that the respondent does not maintain any record that contains the information as specified in the requests. It is also found that the respondent has provided the complainants with access to its records that could be in some way responsive to the type of data or information the complainants are seeking. Further, it is found that the respondent has permitted the complainants to inspect his records, and is willing for them to continue to do so. Under the FOI Act, the respondent is not obligated to compile new records that do not already exit in order to satisfy a request. The respondent is however, required to provide any existing records that are responsive to a request.
6. The complainants contend that certain Department of Public Health Regulations (“DPH”) require that the respondent maintain the records described in paragraph 4ai, 4aii, 4aiii and 4aiv, above. Even if that contention is accurate, this Commission has no jurisdiction to enforce the regulations of the DPH. Further, if the complainants believe that the respondent is not in compliance with such regulations the complainants are free to seek recourse in the appropriate forums.
7. With respect to the request for dispatch records, described in paragraph 4b, above, it is found that the complainants’ initial request had specified that such records be provided on computer disc or on paper.
8. It is found that the respondent provided the complainants with the records on paper at a copying charge of $217.00 (434 copies at 50 cents per page), which the complainants believe to be excessive.
9. The complainants are now requesting that the records be provided on computer disc, with which the respondent is willing to comply if the complainants agree to pay for manipulation of the data to segregate medical information about patients from the data that the complainants want.
10. Section 1-211, G.S. [formerly §1-19a, G.S.] deals with the disclosure of computer-stored public records, and provides in relevant part:
(a) Any public agency which maintains public records in a computer storage system shall provide, to any person making a request pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, a copy of any nonexempt data contained in such records, properly identified, on paper, disk, tape or any other electronic storage device or medium requested by the person, if the agency can reasonably make such copy or have such copy made. Except as otherwise provided by state statute, the cost for providing a copy of such data shall be in accordance with the provisions of section 1-212.
11. Section 1-212(b), G.S. [formerly §1-15(b), G.S.] further provides:
The fee for any copy provided in accordance with subsection (a) of section 1-211 shall not exceed the cost thereof to the public agency. In determining such costs for a copy, other than for a printout which exists at the time that the agency responds to the request for such copy, an agency may include only:
(1) An amount equal to the hourly salary attributed to all agency employees engaged in providing the requested computer-stored public record, including their time performing the formatting or programming functions necessary to provide the copy as requested, but not including search or retrieval costs except as provided in subdivision (4) of this subsection;
(2) An amount equal to the cost to the agency of engaging an outside professional electronic copying service to provide such copying services, if such service is necessary to provide the copying as requested;
(3) The actual cost of the storage devices or media provided to the person making the request in complying with such request; and
(4) The computer time charges incurred by the agency in providing the requested computer-stored public record where another agency or contractor provides the agency with computer storage and retrieval services. [Emphasis added.]
12. It is found that C-Med is a contractor which maintains the requested records, and such records arecomputer-stored public records within the meaning of §§1-211(a), G.S. [formerly §1-19a(a), G.S.] and 1-212(b)(4), G.S. [formerly §1-15(b)(4), G.S.].
13. It is also found that the requested information contains medical information concerning patients. Such medical information is exempt from public disclosure pursuant to §1-210(b)(2), G.S. [formerly §1-19(b)(2), G.S.], which does not require the release of medical files, “disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy.”
14. It is therefore concluded that the respondent may first redact the medical information from the requested dispatch records, and pass on to the complainants the computer time charges it incurs from C-Med in providing the redacted information on computer disc.
15. It is further concluded that the respondent did not violate the FOI Act as alleged in the complaint.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The complaint is hereby dismissed.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of
June 14, 2000.
Melanie R. Balfour
Acting Clerk of the Commission
PURSUANT TO SECTION 4-180(c), G.S., THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION, OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.
THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:
Brian Ruskin and Stratford Fire Fighters’ Local 998
1415 Huntington Road
Stratford, CT 06614
Mark Barnhart, Town Manager, Town of Stratford
c/o Atty. Floyd J. Dugas
Berchem, Moses & Devlin PC
75 Broad Street
Milford, CT 06460
Melanie R. Balfour
Acting Clerk of the Commission