The Hartford Small Business Alliance, a group of small business owners concerned over their rising tax bills, have reached a settlement agreement with the city over a complaint the group filed last summer with the state's Freedom of Information Commission.
In the wake of revelations last year that many of the city's small businesses would be hit hard by skyrocketing tax bills because of the city's revaluation of property, the alliance asked the city for extensive records, primarily from the city assessor's office.
When the city's lawyers did not promptly comply with the request, the alliance filed a complaint with the state in July 2007.
"After the passage of weeks when their seemed to be no movement at all, my client was left with no other option but to bring the complaint to the Freedom of Information Commission," Greg Piecuch, a lawyer representing the alliance, said Monday.
"Some of my clients felt like the freedom of information law was being used as a pretext, and was actually being used to frustrate disclosure instead of facilitate it."
The state's freedom of information law allows the city to wait four days before responding to a request for information, and then requires prompt disclosure of public documents.
Piecuch said that his clients were "singled out" and made to wait for the data, while other members of the business community were given the same information without delay.
John Rose, the city's attorney, did not return a call seeking comment.
The alliance did not get the bulk of the information it was seeking until after a hearing in December with the state commission, Piecuch said. After the hearing, the two sides met to settle the dispute, he said.
As part of the settlement agreement with the alliance, the city stipulated that they had committed "various promptness violations" to the law when responding to a request for documents from the alliance, according to a proposed order by an attorney for commission. The city also agreed to cooperate with the group and act promptly to its requests in the future.
The proposed order also says the complaint will be withdrawn by the alliance and dismissed by the commission.To become final, the commission still needs to approve the order at a hearing on Jan. 9.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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