FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Richard Plaskonka,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 87-370

 

Dana Whitman, Town Manager and Randi Frank, Assistant Town Manager of the Town of Rocky Hill,

 

Respondents May 11, 1988

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on January 28, 1988 and February 17, 1988, at which times the complainant 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. On December 9, 1987, the complainant orally requested to inspect the following records:

 

a. The "Memorandum of Agreement" (hereinafter "agreement") between the Town of Rocky Hill and the International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local #316 (hereinafter "IBPO") establishing a procedure for disclosure of police officers' personnel files and prohibiting disclosure of certain information.

 

b. The disciplinary file of Sergeant Ardo Rossi generated from a civilian complaint filed against him.

 

3. On December 9, 1987, the respondents denied the complainant access to the requested records described in paragraphs 2a and 2b, above.

 

4. By two letters of complaint, each dated December 10, 1987, and filed with the Commission on December 14, 1987, the complainant alleged the respondents denied him access to inspect public records and requested the imposition of a civil penalty.

 

Docket #FIC 87-370 Page 2

 

5. On December 18, 1987, the complainant received a copy of the agreement described in paragraph 2a, above.

 

6. At the hearing, Sergeant Rossi moved to intervene in the proceeding. Pursuant to 1-21j-28 of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies, the Commission granted the motion to the extent the intervenor was given permission to participate fully in the hearing before the undersigned hearing officer.

 

7. The complainant alleges he was denied prompt access to the agreement within the meaning of 1-19(a), G.S.

 

8. The respondents claim that at the time of the complainant's request the agreement was exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(9), G.S.

 

9. It is found that on November 16, 1987, the Town of Rocky Hill and the IBPO agreed that certain procedures would be followed when a request for a police officer's personnel file was made, in accordance with P.A. 87-385.

 

10. It also is found that on November 16, 1987, the Town of Rocky Hill and the IBPO agreed to compile a list of personnel information that would be exempt from public disclosure.

 

11. It is found that in the afternoon of December 9, 1987, the Town of Rocky Hill and the IBPO compiled and agreed to a list of personnel information that would be kept confidential and executed the agreement described in paragraph 2a, above. The complainant requested to inspect the agreement in the morning of December 9, 1987.

 

12. The agreement sets forth the procedures to be followed when a request for a police officer's personnel file was made and listed certain information exempted from public disclosure, including "disciplinary action until completion of final review, if any, under the grievance procedure."

 

13. It is found that at the time of the complainant's request, the Town of Rocky Hill and the IBPO were still negotiating the terms of the agreement.

 

14. It also is found that at the time of the complainant's request, the agreement was a record of negotiations with respect to collective bargaining within the meaning of 1-19(b)(9), G.S.

 

15. It is concluded that at the time of the complainant's request, the agreement was exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(9), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 87-370 Page 3

 

16. It is found, however, the agreement was finalized and signed in the afternoon of December 9, 1987, but was not provided to the complainant until December 18, 1987.

 

17. It is concluded the complainant was denied prompt access to the agreement in violation of 1-19(a), G.S.

 

18. With respect to the complainant's request to inspect the disciplinary file of Sergeant Rossi, it is found that on December 18, 1987, the respondents provided the complainant with the complete internal investigation report, except for the record noting the disciplinary action imposed against Sergeant Rossi.

 

19. It also is found the record noting the disciplinary action imposed against Sergeant Rossi is a public record within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S.

 

20. The respondents claim the requested record described in paragraphs 2b and 19, above, is exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(2), G.S. Specifically, the respondents allege the requested record is exempt from disclosure until Sergeant Rossi has exhausted his rights of appeal under the grievance procedure.

 

21. The respondents also claim the requested record described in paragraphs 2b and 19, above, is exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(9), G.S.

 

22. It is found that the respondent town manager maintains personnel files of police officers and the police department maintains disciplinary files of police officers. Any disciplinary action imposed against a police officer, however, is noted in the officer's personnel file.

 

23. It also is found that pursuant to an existing collective bargaining agreement between the Town of Rocky Hill and the IBPO, a disciplinary board investigates allegations of misconduct against a police officer and recommends to the police chief a particular course of action.

 

24. It is found that if the police chief decides to impose disciplinary action that exceeds the disciplinary board's recommendation, that action cannot be imposed against the police officer in question until he has exhausted his rights of appeal under the grievance provisions of the collective bargaining agreement.

 

25. It is found that in cases of suspension, discipline is not imposed until the employee has exhausted his rights of appeal under the grievance procedure.

 

Docket #FIC 87-270 Page 4

 

26. It is found with respect to the complaint concerning Sergeant Rossi, the police chief disagreed with the disciplinary board's recommendation and imposed certain disciplinary action that exceeded the board's recommendation.

 

27. It is found that Sergeant Rossi has appealed to the State Board of Mediation and Arbitration and is awaiting a decision from that board.

 

28. It is found the requested record constitutes a personnel or similar file within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

29. It is found the requested record described in paragraphs 2b and 19, above, constitutes a record of the administrative disposition of a non-criminal, police internal affairs investigation.

 

30. It is found the public has a legitimate interest in the integrity of local police departments and in disclosure of how such departments investigate and evaluate citizens' complaints of police misconduct.

 

31. It is found the respondents failed to prove that disclosure of the requested record would constitute an invasion of personal privacy within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

32. It therefore is concluded the requested record is not exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

33. It is found a record noting the disciplinary action imposed against a police officer is not a record of strategy or negotiations with respect to collective bargaining within the meaning of 1-19(b)(9), G.S., and is not exempt from disclosure under that statutory provision.

 

34. It therefore is concluded the respondents violated 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to allow the complainant to inspect the record of disciplinary action imposed against Sergeant Rossi.

 

35. The Commission declines to impose a civil penalty against the respondents.

 

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

 

1. The respondents shall forthwith permit the complainant to inspect the record noting the disciplinary action imposed against Sergeant Rossi described in paragraphs 2b and 19 of the findings, above.

 

Docket #FIC 87-370 Page 5

 

2. The respondents shall henceforth act in strict compliance with the requirements of 1-19(a), G.S., regarding prompt access to public records.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 11, 1988.

 

 

Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission