FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Carl Johnson,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 86-133

 

First Selectman of the Town of Stonington and Board of Police Commissioners of the Town of Stonington,

 

Respondents July 23, 1986

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 4, 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. At a meeting held on April 16, 1986 a letter to the respondent first selectman from the president of Local 317, the police union, was presented to the respondent board in executive session. Upon reconvening in public session, the respondent board voted to hire a consultant to study the operations of the police department.

 

3. On April 23, 1986 the complainant made an oral request of the respondent first selectman for the letter, followed by a written request dated April 29, 1986.

 

4. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on May 15, 1986 the complainant appealed the respondents' failure to provide him with the requested records. The complainant also alleged that the respondent board's discussion of the letter in executive session violated 1-18a(e), G.S.

 

5.     It is found that the letter in question, an analysis of conditions within Stonington's police department, contains comments from members of the police department and was written after the respondent commission asked the respondent first selectman to solicit input from the union.

 

Docket #FIC 86-133 Page Two

 

6. The respondent board claims that the letter is a preliminary draft or note within the meaning of 1-19(b)(1), G.S. and is therefore exempted from disclosure, citing a statement in the letter which indicates that the concerns expressed therein could be a "starting point." The respondents further claim that the letter did not affect the respondent board's decision to hire a consultant.

 

7. The respondent first selectman claims that the police officers who contributed to the letter were told that the letter would be submitted confidentially.

 

8. It is found that the letter in question was not a preliminary draft or note within the meaning of 1-19(b)(1) and that representations of confidentiality, alone, do not exempt the record from disclosure. At hearing, the complainant indicated that he had no interest in the identity of officers submitting information and that he would not object to the omission of their names from the document.

 

9. The respondents failed to prove that the requested letter was exempted from disclosure by any other provision of the Freedom of Information Act, other state statute or federal law.

 

10. It is concluded that the executive session was not convened to discuss a record exempted from disclosure within the meaning of 1-18a(e)(5), G.S. and that the respondents violated 1-15, G.S. when they refused to provide the complainant with a copy of the letter.

 

11. The respondent board also claims that the executive session was properly convened to discuss the performance of its members within the meaning of 1-18a(e)(1), G.S.

 

12. The respondent board failed to prove, however, that while convened in executive session it discussed the appointment, employment, performance, evaluation, health or dismissal of any of its members or of any other public officer or employee.

 

13. It is concluded that the respondent board violated 1-18a(e) and 1-21(a), G.S. when it convened in executive session on April 16, 1986 to discuss the letter from the president of Local 317.

 

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

 

1.     The respondent board shall forthwith provide the complainant with a copy of the letter from the president of Local 317 to the respondent first selectman. The respondent board may

 

Docket #FIC 86-133 Page Three

 

mask or delete from such letter the names of police officers who signed the letter or to whom comments may have been attributed within the letter.

 

2. The respondent board shall henceforth convene in executive session only for one or more of the proper purposes listed at 1-18a(e), G.S.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at is regular meeting of July 23, 1986.

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission