FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Joseph St. Pierre, et al,

 

Complainants

 

against Docket #FIC 86-91

 

Chairman, Merit Promotional Committee, State of Connecticut Department of Income Maintenance,

 

Respondent May 14, 1986

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 22, 1986, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.

 

After consideration of the entire matter, the following facts are found:

 

1. The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. By letter dated March 18, 1986 the complainants made a request of the respondent to inspect their examination files for the "last Program Supervisor exam," including, but not limited to the following documents:

 

a) Per-200, MPS-2, MPS-5

b) All service ratings considered

c) All Job Skills Development forms considered

d) PLD-1 Application Form and other application forms

e) The evaluator ratings forms as completed by each

individual member of the Agency Promotion Committee

 

3. The respondent responded to the complainants' requests by letters dated March 31, 1986, in which letters the respondent detailed the nature of the disclosure that had already been granted and cited 5-225, G.S. and 5-225-1 of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies in support of the denial of access to certain records.

 

4. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on April 2, 1986 the complainants alleged that they had not received a satisfactory response to their requests for records.

 

Docket #FIC 86-91 Page Two

 

5. As of the date of hearing, the complainants had been provided with access to the records referred to at paragraphs 2(a) and (d), above. The records referred to at paragraphs 2(b) and (c) were not used in the examination. The complainants had been provided with access to the evaluator ratings forms from which had been deleted the names of the raters. The identity of the raters was revealed to the complainants on another form released by the respondent.

 

6. Ratings ranging from "highly qualified" to "not eligible" are given in the categories of "performance," "job knowledge and skill," "interest" and "agency knowledge and experience."

 

7. The complainants claim that they are entitled to know which rater authored which rating and are entitled to access to any other documents which might be contained in the files, in addition to those specifically enumerated in the letter of request.

 

8. The respondent claims that disclosure of the raters' names is governed by 5-225, G.S. which provides that

 

The papers, markings and other items used in determining the final earned ratings, other than the questions and other materials constituting the test itself, shall be open to inspection by the candidate. . .

 

9. The respondent claims that in the context of a merit promotion system examination evaluator forms with the names of the raters attached constitute "questions and other materials constituting the test itself" within the meaning of 5-225, G.S.

 

10. The respondent further claims that matching the name of the rater with the actual rating would undermine the examination process because the ratings would reflect the rater's knowledge that his role in the process will be revealed to the examinee, who is potentially a co-worker.

 

11. To support its claims the respondent offered the testimony of Mr. Bruce Davey, the chief personnel psychologist for the personnel division of the State of Connecticut department of administrative services. Mr. Davey's concern that release of the information in question will compromise the integrity of the evaluation process is not, however, a sufficient basis for concluding that the information is material consituting the test itself within the meaning of 5-225, G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 86-91 Page Three

 

12. It is further found that the claimed interest in protecting raters against pressure from examinees does not outweigh the public interest in protecting examinees by making raters accountable for their evaluations. The respondent did not prove that the integrity of the examination process would be any more compromised by raters' fears of examinees' responses than by the lack of accountability inherent in a system in which evaluations are anonymous.

 

13. It is concluded that the names of raters as shown on the evaluation forms completed in connection with the merit promotion examination in question are not exempted from disclosure by 5-225, G.S. The respondent failed to prove that such names are exempted from disclosure by other state statute or federal law.

 

14. It also concluded that the requested information is not exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(6), G.S.

 

15. It is found that 99 persons applied for the examination in question. All records concerning all applicants were placed in one file by the respondent, with the result that when the complainants' requests were received it was necessary to prepare a folder for each complainant containing the records specifically requested.

 

16. It is found that records other than those specifically requested may be contained in the examination file but that the existence of such records would not be immediately apparent given the record-keeping method used by the respondent.

 

The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint.

 

1. The respondent shall forthwith provide the complainants with access to inspect the evaluator ratings forms completed by each member of the agency promotion committee, without deletion of the names of the raters.

 

2. The respondent shall forthwith conduct a search of its file on the examination in question to determine whether such file contains documents relating to the complainants other than those specifically requested. The respondent shall, within two weeks of the final decision in this matter, provide the complainants with an affidavit stating that such a search has been conducted and, if any such records are located, shall provide the complainants with access to such documents or shall indicate the nature of any claimed exemption from disclosure.

 

Docket #FIC86-91 page 4

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of May 14, 1986.

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission