Local business wins; the Office of Governmental Accountability wins appeal against Department of Labor
18 JUNE 2014 | By: Realgy, LLC
One year ago in May 2013, the Office of Governmental Accountability (OGA) issued their finding which required the Connecticut Department of Labor (DOL) to provide certain documents related to their ongoing investigation as requested by Realgy. The DOL appealed that decision and the appellate court upheld OGA’s decision. The result; DOL cannot claim an exemption to releasing the information.
Realgy, LLC, a West Hartford business for 13 years, filed a Freedom of Information Request (FOIA), which is handled under the Office of Governmental Accountability in Connecticut. Michael Vrtis, President of Realgy explained “We filed a freedom of information request to hold DOL to the same standard as they have held us and seek to have information released that will show what we believe to be an abuse of power by DOL during this investigation.”
DOL filed their appeal against releasing this information as it would harm their ability to investigate Realgy stating “…that every investigation initiated is criminal in nature.” In addition, DOL cited that Realgy’s “…request for documents merely is an effort to hinder the DOL’s pending investigation and to harass the wage agent assigned to the investigation.”
However, the appellate court upheld the OGA’s finding that found that DOL had spent 4 years on the investigation, had not communicated with Realgy in over a year, and that DOL failed to prove that there is any consideration of legal action against Realgy.
Vrtis stated, “We feel grateful to OGA for wading through DOL’s defense and appeal of this investigation.” Vrtis continued, “with this appeal resolved, the original OGA’s finding are upheld and DOL will be held to the same standard as every business in Connecticut. I look forward to receiving the information and making it public.”
Realgy was only a 3rd party to this appeal as it was DOL who appealed OGA’s ruling. In essence;
The FOIC (Freedom of Information Commission) initially ruled Realgy and the public did have that right and DOL should turn over the documents. DOL sued the FOIC ruling they didn’t. The Superior Court decided they did.
This decision is important as it means the DOL has to be held accountable as is every business in Connecticut and turn over the documents they collect in the course of their business. They cannot claim that an open investigation gives them protection against such requests. DOL has no time constraints on an investigation, therefore, and has been able to shield collected information for years.
Vrtis explained “the FOIA request has been the only means available to Realgy to have DOL be held accountable for the ongoing investigation.” All FOIA requests involve a company requesting information from a governmental agency. The Office of Government Accountability houses the FOIC; additional information is at http://www.ct.gov/foi. The FOIA process required Realgy to request specific information from DOL through the FOIC. The FOIC rules on Realgy’s request for information and the resulting decision requires DOL to release the requested information.
“For over four years the DOL has investigated Realgy for violations of labor laws which can be a criminal matter. Four years for investigating one complaint from one employee who was only with Realgy for one year. Such an open investigation can be intimidating and as such, no other governmental or politician will address it until the conclusion of the investigation,” stated Vrtis.
Vrtis continued, “The Office of Government Accountability and, in particular, the Freedom of Information Commission are valuable entities. Without having to hire an attorney, Realgy can be heard by an impartial panel that has the power to order DOL to produce the records and be held accountable for their investigation. I am impressed by the hard work of this impartial panel to balance the power of governmental agencies against the need for business to protect themselves from abuse of that power.”
675 Oakwood Avenue
West Hartford, CT