In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION


Board of Directors and Executive Director, Gateway Communities, Inc.,




against Docket #FIC 86-208


Director, Region I, Department of Mental Health,


Respondent February 25, 1987


The above-captioned matter was scheduled for hearing on August 25, 1986, September 18, 1986 and October 23, 1986, at which times the parties appeared and presented evidence and argument on the complaint. On November 17, 1986 the complainant was permitted to submit additional tape recorded evidence, while at the same time complainant's request to reopen the hearing was denied .


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 July 1, 1986, the complainant made a request of the respondent for copies of records pertaining to the regional mental health board process which resulted in the denial of funding for the Gateway Communities, Inc., a provider of mental health services for persons with mental health problems.


3. By letter dated July 10, 1986 the respondent suggested that the documents were best obtained from the board which generated them.


4. Thereafter, while the FOIC hearings were ongoing, the respondent provided copies of some records to the complainant.


5. 1-15, G.S. and 1-19(a), G.S., require that public records be provided "promptly," when a request for copies has been made in writing.


6. It is found that the respondent did not provide copies of public records promptly to the complainant as required by 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.


Docket #FIC 86-208 page 2


7. The respondent withheld three records from the complainant on the ground that the records were exempt from disclosure. The records withheld are as follows:


(a) a letter from a former Gateway resident evaluating Gateway services;


(b) the respondent's hand-written notes of three meetings at which she was present; and


(c) the respondent's hand-written notes of three telephone calls which she received.


8. The respondent claims that the letter described at paragraph 7(a), above, is exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(2), G.S.


9. The letter contains detailed information relating to the personal history, treatment, and events taking place when the writer of the letter was living at a Gateway halfway house.


10. It is found that the letter is a file similar to a medical file within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.


11. It is further found, based upon the facts of this case, that disclosure of any portion of the letter could lead to identification of the writer as a person with mental health problems, and resident of a half-way house, and that such disclosure would constitute an invasion of personal privacy of the writer.


12. It is concluded that the letter is exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(2), G.S.


13. The respondent contends that the hand-written notes of meetings and telephone calls described at paragraph 7(b) and (c), above, are not subject to disclosure because they are not public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S.


14. It is found that the hand-written notes of the respondent are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S., because they are recorded data or information relating to the conduct of the public's business prepared, owned, used and retained by a public agency.


15. It is further found that the respondent failed to prove that the notes were exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(1), G.S., because she failed to prove that she had determined that the public interest in withholding such documents clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure.


Docket #FIC 86-208 page 3


16. The complainant alleges because of the structure of the review process and by virtue of the respondent's participation in it, that the respondent has the duty to provide additional records, not maintained in the office of the respondent, which were part of the board review process.


17. It is found that under the facts of this case, neither the structure of the review process, nor the respondent's participation in it, create a duty under the FOIA to obtain records from other agencies or persons to satisfy the complainant's request.


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


1. The respondent forthwith shall provide the complainant with copies of her notes of telephone calls and meetings which are described more fully at paragraphs 7(b) and 7(c), herein.


2. Henceforth the respondent shall comply with 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.


Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of February 25, 1987.


Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission