FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Michael Grondahl,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 87-99

 

Chairman of the State of Connecticut Board of Parole,

 

Respondent October 28, 1987

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 14, 1987, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts 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 March 25, 1987 the complainant, an inmate at the Connecticut Correctional Institution at Somers, made a request of the respondent for certified copies of certain records of the Board of Parole ("Board") relating to the time period beginning January 1, 1985 and ending March 25, 1987, including the following:

 

a) Agendas of all meetings;

 

b) The record of votes of each Board member at all meetings; and

 

c) Minutes of all meetings.

 

3. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on April 7, 1987 the complainant appealed the respondent's failure to provide the requested records.

 

4. The scope of the complaint was narrowed at hearing by the respondent's offer, accepted by the complainant, to provide the complainant with information regarding the number of inmates considered for parole release during the period in question and regarding the duties and responsibilities of Board members. The respondent also stated that other records requested by the complainant, relating to Board members' opinions with regard to its policies, practices or procedures, did not exist.

 

Docket #FIC 87-99 Page Two

 

5. It is found that prior to each of its meetings the Board creates an agenda which consists of a list of names and numbers of inmates or former inmates to be considered.

 

6. It is found that lists of names and numbers of inmates or former inmates to be considered by the Board at its meetings, used as agendas by the Board, are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S. However, the respondent stated at hearing that such lists are discarded following the meeting to which they refer.

 

7. It is found that by the time of the complainant's request for the agendas of all meetings held between January 1, 1985 and March 25, 1987, such agendas had been destroyed or otherwise discarded.

 

8. It is concluded that the respondent's failure to provide the complainant with copies of the requested agendas did not violate 1-15 or 1-19(a), G.S. The destruction of such records may, however, subject the person or persons responsible to the imposition of the penalties described at 1-21k(a), G.S.

 

9. The respondent does not record the votes of individual Board members in the minutes of meetings. Instead, where an action is not by unanimous vote the respondent notes the members' votes on a separate "work sheet" kept by him. If a vote is unanimous, no notation is taken.

 

10. Section 1-21(a), G.S. requires that the votes of each member of any public agency upon any issue before such public agency shall be reduced to writing and made available for public inspection and shall also be recorded in the minutes of the session at which taken.

 

11. It is concluded that the respondent's failure to make available to the complainant the record of votes of each member of the Board at Board meetings held between January 1, 1985 and March 25, 1987 violated 1-15, 1-19(a) and 1-21(a), G.S.

 

12. It is found that minutes of meetings of public agencies are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S. and must be made available for public inspection within seven days of the session to which they refer, pursuant to 1-21(a), G.S.

 

13. The respondent claims that due to the information contained therein, minutes of Board meetings are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(3)(E), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 87-99 Page Three

 

14. It is found that minutes of Board meetings are not records of law enforcement agencies not otherwise available to the public, compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of crime within the meaning of 1-19(b)(3)(E), G.S. and, therefore, are not exempted from disclosure by such statute.

 

15. The respondent also claims that due to the information contained therein, minutes of Board meetings are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

16. It is found that minutes of Board meetings contain the names of Board members and of inmates or former inmates whose requests are being considered, the action taken on each request and the date of rehearing if a request is denied. The minutes may also contain information about inmates or former inmates and the crimes of which they have been convicted, victims, victims' families, conditions of parole, technical parole violations, criminal activities not resulting in convictions and sexual assaults.

 

17. The complainant narrowed his request at hearing by stating that he was interested only in charges against inmates and the disposition of their requests for parole, not in information concerning victims or their families or inmates' names, numbers or medical information.

 

18. It is found that the limited information sought by the complainant, referred to at paragraph 17, above, is not a personnel or medical and similar file the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S. and that the information is, therefore, not exempted from disclosure by such statute.

 

19. The respondent claims that it is not possible to delete identifying information in such a way as to make disclosure acceptable. The respondent, however, cannot deny the public access to Board minutes by including in such minutes information which it considers non-disclosable and then claiming that such information cannot be effectively deleted.

 

20. It is found that the information referred to at paragraph 17, above, is routinely made available, upon request, to members of the public other than inmates.

 

21. The respondent further claims that information concerning inmates, if allowed to reach a limited number of other inmates, can be used for extortion or blackmail and could threaten the security of the institution and the safety of inmates.

 

Docket #FIC 87-99 Page Four

 

22. The respondent, however, failed to prove that pursuant to state statute or federal law, an alleged threat to institutional security exempts public records from disclosure. The respondent also failed to prove that disclosure of the statistical data described at paragraph 17, above, poses a threat to institutional security or to the safety of inmates.

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

 

1. The respondent shall, within two weeks of the Final Decision in this matter, provide the complainant with minutes of all Board meetings held between January 1, 1985 and March 25, 1987 and the record of votes of each Board member upon any issue before the Board.

 

2. In complying with paragraph 1 of the Order above, the respondent may delete all references to the identities of individuals other than Board members and may also delete information unrelated to the nature of the crimes of which each parole-seeker was convicted and the disposition of each request.

 

3. The respondent henceforth shall ensure that agendas of all meetings of the Board of Parole are made and kept available for public inspection pursuant to 1-21(a), 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of October 28, 1987.

 

 

Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission