FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Ralph W. Williams, Jr., and the Journal Inquirer,

 

Complainants,

 

against Docket #FIC 87-200

 

Superintendent of Schools and Board of Education of the Town of Enfield,

 

Respondents January 27, 1988

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on August 13 and September 22, 1987, at which times the complainants and the respondents 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. By letters to the respondent superintendent dated June 18 and July 1, 1987, the complainants requested:

 

a. to examine and receive copies of all correspondence between Roderick Crochiere and the respondent superintendent or any other Enfield school system administrator, about Mr. Crochiere's continued employment with or possible separation from the school system,

 

b. and to examine and receive copies of any complaints from parents or students about Mr. Crochiere's conduct at Fermi High School, Thomas G. Alcorn School or Harriet Beecher Stowe School.

 

3. By letters dated June 22 and July 10, 1987, the respondent superintendent denied the complainants' requests.

 

4. By letter dated July 15, 1987, and filed with the Commission on July 16, 1987, the complainants appealed the denial of their request.

 

5. In the same letter, the complainants also appealed an

 

Docket #FIC 87-200 Page Two

 

alleged violation occurring when the respondent board of education convened in executive session at its July 13, 1987, meeting.

 

6. At the hearing, Roderick Crochiere moved to become a party in the case. The hearing officer reserved decision on the motion and granted Mr. Crochiere intervenor status for the proceedings before the Commission.

 

7. The intervenor is hereby granted party status in the case.

 

8. At the hearing, the respondents moved that the Commission examine the records in question in camera. The respondents' motion is hereby denied.

 

9. The respondents and the intervenor claim that:

 

a. those records that are letters about the intervenor's continued employment are performance evaluations exempt from disclosure under 10-151c, G.S.;

 

b. any records that are letters of complaint are exempt from disclosure under 10-151c and 1-19(b)(2), G.S., as disclosure would invade the privacy of both the subject and those who brought any complaints, as well as violate the subject's due process rights; and

 

c. the respondent board convened in executive session on July 13, 1987, to discuss pending litigation, documents that are exempt from disclosure, and the performance of an employee who had been notified he would be discussed and did not object.

 

10. It is found that the intervenor is a tenured teacher, employed by the respondent board of education and the subject of the requested records.

 

11. It is found that all the requested records are part of the intervenor's personnel records.

 

12. It is found the records described in paragraph 2a, above, include letters of reprimand.

 

13. It is found that the letters of reprimand record negative aspects of teacher performance and are used to establish professional goals and make decisions regarding employment contracts.

 

Docket #FIC 87-200 Page Three

 

14. It is concluded that the letters of reprimand are records of teacher performance and evaluation within the meaning of 10-151c, G.S., and are exempt from disclosure.

 

15. It is found that the records described in paragraph 2a, above, also include other letters about the intervenor, which contain evaluations of the intervenor, interwoven in the content of the letters and physically inseparable from other information they may contain.

 

16. It is concluded, therefore, that these other letters are records of teacher performance and evaluation within the meaning of 10-151c, G.S., and exempt from disclosure.

 

17. The Commission declines to decide the claim that disclosure of this correspondence would violate the intervenor's due process rights because such a determination is beyond its jurisdiction.

 

18. It is found that there is a legitimate public interest in the disclosure of the records described in paragraph 2b, above.

 

19. It is also found that disclosure of the records described in paragraph 2b, above, would not constitute an invasion of the personal privacy of the intervenor, who voluntarily chose to serve the public and be paid with public funds.

 

20. It is concluded that the records described in paragraph 2b, above, are not exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

21. It is found that although these records might invade the privacy of the students who complained or other persons if their identities are disclosed, it would not invade their privacy if their identities were masked or otherwise concealed.

 

22. It is further found that the complainants communicated to the respondents, in their request letter of July 1, 1987, that they had no objection to the identities of students and other third parties being masked.

 

23. It is also found that the complaints are not records of teacher performance and evaluation within the meaning of 10-151c, G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 87-200 Page Four

 

24. It is concluded, therefore, that the respondents violated 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., by denying the complainants' request for access to the records described in paragraph 2b, above.

 

25. It is found that the respondent board of education convened in executive session during its July 13, 1987, meeting for the following stated purposes: "strategy with respect to pending claims, discussion of matters which could result in the disclosure of exempt records, and personnel matters."

 

26. It is found that these stated purposes are too vague to communicate to the public what claims, what types of records, or what personnel matters were taken up in the executive session, and leave the public to speculate as to whether the executive session was convened for permissible purposes.

 

27. It is found that the intervenor was notified he might be the subject of a discussion in executive session, and he was given the opportunity to request an open session, which he declined.

 

28. It is concluded that the respondents did not violate 1-18(a)(e), G.S., to the extent their discussion in executive session focused on the intervernor's performance or the records of his performance evaluation described in paragraph 2a, above.

 

29. It is found, however, that the respondents discussed the complainants' request for records in the executive session in question.

 

30. It is concluded that the respondents violated 1-18(a)(e), G.S., to the extent their discussion in executive session focused on the complainants' request for records or the records of complaints described in paragraph 2b, above.

 

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

 

1. The respondents henceforth shall act in strict compliance with 1-15, 1-19(a) and 1-18(a)(e), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 87-200 Page Five

 

2. The respondents forthwith shall provide the complainants with copies of the records described in paragraph 2b of the findings, above, after masking or otherwise concealing any information that identifies students or other third parties.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of January 27, 1988.

 

 

Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission