Although it is known as the “Sunshine Law,” the idea of summer fun is usually not synonymous with the Freedom of Information Act [“FOIA”]. Nevertheless, as we lament the passing of time (and loss of daylight), Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Commission [“FOIC”] issued intriguing decisions during the summer that provide teachable moments, such as the following:
Lesson? The right to copies of public records exists even to those who may already have a copy of those same records. While it may seem like a waste of the agency’s time (not to mention a waste of money of a complainant to pay for the cost of receiving a copy of a document that he already has), the defense of “he has it already” will not be a winner at the FOIC. While you can point out to a requesting party the fact that he/she already has the document, if the party persists, you must them give the document to them consistent with the FOIA (and any exceptions to disclosure).
Lesson? When an agency meets with its constituents just to listen, it is still conducting a public meeting under the FOIA, and this meeting will still be subject to the FOIA’s open meetings and notice requirements.
Lesson? Sorry, but just having your agency’s law firm hire a contractor will not suddenly create a privilege between the agency and the contractor. Rather, the attorney-client privilege only exists to protect legal advice (not PR or political advice).
Lesson? Even though a public agency itself cannot make FOIA requests of another agency, individual members of the same agency would still have the right to bring FOIA requests and complaints on their own. Of course, the agency may then be hard pressed to justify paying for the legal expenses for an individual to prosecute a FOIA complaint on his/her own behalf.