(Last updated August 11, 2021)
Where can the law be found? The law governing Connecticut public records is the Freedom of Information Act, also known as FOIA (not to be confused with the federal statute of the same name). The FOIA provides guidelines for what constitutes public records, how one can access them, and what remedies are available should that right of access be denied. To access the text of the law, visit the Connecticut Legislature’s website. Access to public records is controlled by section 1-210.
Who enforces the law? Under section 1-205, the Freedom of Information Commission has the authority to review complaints and file lawsuits on behalf of the public interest.
What is considered a public record? Section 1-200 broadly defines “public record” as “any recorded data or information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, received or retained by a public agency . . . whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, videotaped, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.” A public agency, however, does not have to answer questions or create a record in response to requests.
What records are exempt from the law? The text of the FOIA contains twenty-five types of exempt records. The most common types of exempt records include: 1) law enforcement records compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of crime; 2) personnel, medical, or similar files the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy; and 3) preliminary drafts or notes where the public interest in withholding clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
What records are covered by the law? The FOIA covers, according to section 1-200, “public agencies,” which includes any executive, legislative, or judicial office. There are two notable exceptions: state prosecutors and the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency. Neither are subject to the FOIA.
What is the request procedure? The FOIA allows members of the public to make oral or written requests. Although public agencies cannot require requests to be in writing, it is a good practice to make written requests to avoid miscommunication. Agencies can only respond to requests in two ways: either promptly provide a copy or inspection of the requested records, or issue a written denial stating the reasons for denial. Denials must be within four business days or within 10 business days if the request seeks personnel records. Non-responses are considered denials and serve as grounds for appeal.
What are the fees? According to section 1-212, agencies cannot charge for labor or inspection of records. But municipal agencies and state agencies can charge up to 50 cents and 25 cents per page for copies, respectively.
What is the appeals process? To appeal a denial under section 1-206, the requester must submit an appeal to the Freedom of Information Commission within 30 days of making the request. Because non-responses constitute denials, it is important to file an appeal before the 30 days expire.