FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

C. J. Mozzochi,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 86-253

 

Town Manager, Town of Glastonbury,

 

Respondent December 16, 1986

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 6, 1986, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.

 

After consideration of the entire record 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 August 23, 1986 the complainant made a request of the respondent for copies of any and all job applications of persons presently under the supervision of the community development director, the director of administrative services, the director of health, the highway superintendent, the housing authority director, the library director, the parks and recreation director, the public works director, the superintendent of sanitation, the youth services director and the superintendent of the Glastonbury school system.

 

3. By letter dated August 29, 1986 the respondent denied the complainant access to the requested documents, claiming the records are exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(2), G.S., as "personnel files."

 

4. From the denial of access to the requested records, the complainant appealed to the Commission by complaint filed on September 5, 1986.

 

5. The complainant requested that the Commission impose a civil penalty against the respondent.

 

Docket #FIC 86-253 Page 2

 

6. At the hearing before the Commission, the respondent made a motion for more specific statement, claiming that the Notice of Hearing and Order to Show Cause mailed to it by the Commission fails to cite the specific statutory section of the Freedom of Information Act that allegedly has been violated and that this violates due process rights afforded by the United States Constitution.

 

7. It is found that the respondent has knowledge that absent any state or federal law prohibiting disclosure, any recorded data or information relating to the conduct of the public's business prepared, owned, received or retained by a public agency constitutes a public record under the Freedom of Information Act and is subject to disclosure.

 

8. It is therefore concluded that the respondent was fairly apprised of the statutory sections of the Freedom of Information Act that were allegedly violated.

 

9. The respondent's motion for more specific statement is therefore denied.

 

10. The respondent also moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that the Commission failed to comply with the notice requirements of 4-177, G.S.

 

11. It is found that 1-21i(b), G.S., states in relevant part, "the commission shall serve upon all parties, by certified or registered mail, a copy of such notice together with any other notice or order of such commission."

 

12. It is found that on September 22, 1986 the Commission mailed the respondent a copy of the complainant's appeal, along with a Notice of Hearing and Order to Show Cause.

 

13. It is therefore concluded that by mailing the respondent a copy of both the complaint and the Order to Show Cause, the Commission has sufficiently complied with 1-21i(b) and 4-177, G.S.

 

14. The respondent's motion to dismiss is therefore denied.

 

15. The respondent moved to dismiss the complaint on the basis that the requested documents do not constitute public records as defined by 1-18a(d), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 86-253 Page 3

 

16. It is found that the records being sought by the complainant are records relating to the conduct of the respondent's business and are prepared, owned, used, received or retained by the respondent, as defined by 1-18a(d), G.S.

 

17. It is therefore concluded that the records being sought by the complainant are "public records" as defined by 1-18a(d), G.S.

 

18. The respondent's motion to dismiss is therefore denied.

 

19. The respondent also moved to dismiss the complaint on the basis that the requested documents are exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

20. It is found that the applicability of the 1-19(b)(2), G.S., exemption constitutes the merits of this complaint and will be treated accordingly below.

 

21. At the hearing before the Commission, the respondent stated that the applications requested contain the employees' names, addresses, business and home phone numbers, social security numbers, previous employment history, educational background, references, motor vehicle conduct, military information, the employees' signatures and the date the applications were signed.

 

22. It is found that the applications of all employees presently under both the housing authority director and the superintendent of the Glastonbury school system are not retained by the respondent.

 

23. The respondent claims that public disclosure of the following information in the job applications would constitute an invasion of personal privacy under 1-19(b)(2), G.S.:

 

a) business and home phone numbers;

b) social security number;

c) previous employment history;

d) educational background;

e) references;

f) motor vehicle conduct;

g) military information; and

h) the employee's signature and the date of the application.

 

24. It is found that the records in question constitute part of a personnel file within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

25. It is also found, however, that the qualifications of, and the hiring process for, public employees are of legitimate concern to the public.

 

Docket #FIC 86-253 Page 4

 

26. It is concluded that, under the facts of this case, the following information in the employee's job application is not exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(2), G.S.:

 

a) name;

b) address;

c) business number;

d) previous employment history;

e) educational background;

f) references;

g) motor vehicle conduct;

h) military information; and

i) the employee's signature and the date of the application.

 

27. It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., by refusing access to the information listed in paragraph 26, above.

 

28. The respondent further claims that, because the information requested does not pertain to "law enforcement employees," the complainant is entitled only to the employee's name, address, the position applied for and the date of the application.

 

29. The respondent also stated that it is not up to the agency to "negotiate" with the party making the request when, as in this case, the agency is willing to provide limited access to the requested information.

 

30. It is found that the disclosure required by 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., is not limited to law enforcement personnel.

 

31. It is also found that nothing in the Freedom of Information Act requires a public agency to "negotiate" with the party making the request.

 

32. It is found, however, that it is the responsibility of the public agency to make reasonable attempts to ascertain what records are being requested and, as in this case, if the public agency is willing to provide a portion of the requested documents to do so, rather than make an unconditional denial.

 

33. It is found that under the facts of this case, the respondent's unconditional denial of the requested information was without reasonable grounds.

 

Docket #FIC 86-253 Page 5

 

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 complainant with a copy of all the job applications of persons presently under the supervision of the directors identified in paragraph 2 of the findings, above, excluding those supervised by the housing authority director and the superintendent of the Glastonbury school system.

 

2. In complying with paragraph 1 of this order, the respondent may mask or otherwise delete information not listed in paragraph 26 of the findings above.

 

3. Pursuant to 1-21i(b), G.S., a civil penalty of $20 is hereby imposed against the respondent.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of December 16, 1986

 

Catherine I. Hostetter

Acting Clerk of the Commission