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Ansonia Violated FOIA With Written Request Policy

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This article was originally published on CT Inside Investigator
Katherine Revello, CT Inside Investigator

The city of Ansonia violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with a policy requiring public records request to be submitted in writing according to the Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC).

The finding comes from a recent decision made by the FOIC in a complaint brought by a resident of Ansonia who was denied the ability to inspect public records until he filed a written request.

Complainant Thomas Egan visited the city’s comptroller’s office on August 24, 2023, and made an oral request to immediately inspect records relating to food bills incurred on June 22, 2023. Egan spoke to the assistant comptroller, who denied the request and informed him that he would not be allowed to inspect the records until he submitted a written request.

Egan returned to the comptroller’s office on September 15, 2023, and made another oral request for the documents. This time he spoke with the comptroller, who again denied Egan’s request and said he would not be allowed to inspect the records until he filed a written request.

The same day, Egan filed a complaint with the FOIC alleging his right to promptly inspect the requested records had been violated.

The FOIC noted in its decision that the city had not violated FOIA by not immediately granting Egan access to the records because the law requires prompt access to requested records, not immediate access. According to the decision, Ansonia’s comptroller’s office has three staff members, who are responsible for other duties besides handling records requests. They also told the FOIC they needed time to locate the records Egan was requesting.

However, the commission found that the town’s policy of requiring all FOIA requests be in writing does violate FOIA. According to the FOIC’s final decision in the matter, during a hearing, the town’s witnesses “repeatedly testified” and the town’s legal counsel “repeatedly argued” that it is Ansonia’s position “that all FOI requests, including requests to inspect records during regular business hours, must be made in writing.”

“However, the courts have recognized, and this Commission has long held, that a public agency may not require requests to inspect public records to be made in writing.” the FOIC wrote in its final decision.

The FOIC found the town violated FOIA with its policy that requests be made in writing and voided the policy. They also ordered the town to contact the FOIC’s public education officer to schedule FOIA training within a week of the final decision being issued.