FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Jerry M. Myers, President of Local 1739, I.A.F.F.
against Docket #FIC 86-122
Chief and Deputy Chief of the Ridgefield Fire Department
Respondents July 9, 1986
The above captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 23, 1986 at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.
After consideration of the entire record the following facts are found:
1. The complainant requested of the respondent chief the following records:
a. A list of the present officers of the volunteer component of the Ridgefield Fire Department (hereafter RFD).
b. The qualifications to become an officer of the volunteer component of the RFD.
c. A copy of the training records of present officers of the volunteer component of the RFD.
d. The training drill attendance records of the volunteer component of the RFD for the years 1984 and 1985.
2. Officers of the volunteer component of the RFD consist of its captains, the second assistant chief, the first assistant chief and the respondent deputy chief. These titles are conferred by the members of the volunteer component by means of election from the ranks of its members.
3. The respondent chief provided the complainant with the information more fully described in paragraph 1b, above, but could not honor the remainder of the complainant's request because he did not have the necessary records.
4. The respondent chief directed the respondent deputy chief, who is the highest ranking officer of the volunteer component of the RFD, to provide the complainant with the remainder of the requested records.
Docket #FIC86-122 Page 2
5. By memorandum dated April 15, 1986, the respondent deputy chief declined to provide the requested records in accordance with a vote of the membership of the volunteer component of the RFD.
6. From that denial, the complainant appealed to the Commission by letter dated April 17, 1986 and filed with the Commission on April 22, 1986.
7. The respondents claim that the volunteer component of the RFD is not a public agency subject to the Freedom of Information Act, at least when it is not responding to an emergency or acting in an official capacity for the Town of Ridgefield. In this regard the respondents contend that the requested records do not relate to the volunteer component of the RFD in its capacity as a public agency.
8. The respondents also claim that the requested records are exempt from public disclosure because they constitute personnel files under 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
9. The RFD was chartered specially by the legislature during the nineteenth century.
10. Since that time the need for increased personnel has led the Town of Ridgefield to form its own fire department with full-time paid municipal personnel under the command of a full-time paid chief who is responsible for all operations of the department.
11. The RFD is now comprised of a paid component and a volunteer component.
12. The volunteer component elects its own members and officers, none of whom can be of an equal or higher rank than the paid chief.
13. The chief is required to give due consideration to all recommendations made by volunteers on matters relating to the department, but all members of the department, including members of its volunteer component, are obliged to comply with the rules and regulations of the department as prescribed by the chief or as approved by the Ridgefield Board of Selectmen.
14. It is found that the volunteer component of the RFD responds to emergencies, conducts training exercises, maintains equipment and performs other related activities like any municipal fire department.
15. It is also found that the volunteer component of the RFD engages in fund-raising and fraternal activities akin to those undertaken by private organizations committed to performing public service work.
Docket #FIC86-122 Page 3
16. It is further found that the Town of Ridgefield has control over the buildings housing both components of its fire department. The town also pays for all necessary equipment used by both components of its fire department as well as for all necessary repairs and fuel. The town provides some insurance, including workers' compensation insurance for the volunteer members responding to an emergency or conducting training exercises.
17. It is therefore concluded that at least with respect to the activities described in paragraph 14, above, the volunteer component of the RFD and the respondent deputy chief constitute public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S., and are accordingly subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.
18. It is further concluded that the requested records relate to matters of the volunteer component of the RFD in its capacity as a public agency.
19. It is also concluded that the requested records listed in paragraph 1a, above, do not constitute personnel files within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S., and are therefore not exempt from public disclosure under that statutory provision.
20. It is further concluded that the requested records listed in paragraph 1c and 1d, above, properly constitute portions of personnel files within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
21. It is further concluded, however, that the requested records listed in paragraph 1a, 1c and 1d, above, are not exempt from public disclosure under 1-19(b)(2), G.S., because there is a legitimate public interest in the disclosure of such records and therefore their disclosure would not constitute an invasion of personal privacy within the meaning of that statutory provision.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above captioned complaint:
1. The respondent deputy chief shall forthwith provide the complainant with a copy of the records more fully described in paragraph 1a, 1c and 1d of the above findings.
2. Compliance with paragraph 1 of this order shall be required only with respect to existing records which contain the information requested by the complainant and shall not require the respondents to create records which do not exist.
Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of July 9, 1986