In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION


Joan Coe,




against Docket #FIC 88‑40


Lenore Davis, Information Officer, Margaret Shanks, First Selectman, Gordon Gyngell, Police Chief and Police Department of the Town of Simsbury,


Respondents November 9, 1988


The above‑captioned matter was scheduled for hearing March 21, 1988. Prior to hearing it was continued to May 3, 1988, then to June 20, 1988, and then to July 25, 1988. At the hearing the parties appeared and presented evidence 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 letter of complaint received February 8, 1988 the complainant alleged that the respondents had violated the Freedom of Information Act by imposing illegal preconditions upon access to public records, and by altering records maintained in their files.


3. The complainant alleged that the respondent police chief imposed illegal preconditions upon access to records by requiring forms for requests for records and by requiring decisions concerning requests for access to records to be made by members of the police department authorized to do so in accordance with a chain of command.


4. It is found that the respondent chief no longer requires written forms for FOI requests but that, for a period of time prior to this complaint, such a restriction on access did occur.


5. It is found that a requirement that a request for records be made on a form provided by the police department is an illegal precondition upon access to records because it prevents the prompt access required by 1‑15 and 1‑19(a), G.S.


Docket #FIC 88‑40 page two


6. It is found that the respondent chief employed a chain of command to determine which officer or employee of the police department was authorized to make decisions on requests for access to public records.


7. It is found that the use of a chain of command by the respondent chief of police does not constitute an illegal precondition upon access to public records.


8. It is found that the complainant had access to the personnel file of Captain Sevetz on several occasions.


9. It is found that, on the several occasions when the complainant viewed the personnel file of Captain Sevetz, different portions of the file had been redacted.


10. It is found that the discrepancies in the personnel file materials which were shown to the complainant were not the result of improper alteration of public records, but rather were the result of the efforts of different individuals to protect the privacy of Captain Sevetz in accordance with 1‑19(b)(2), G.S.


11. The complainant asked that the Commission impose a civil penalty upon the named respondents.


12. Under the facts of this case, the Commission declines to impose a civil penalty upon the named respondents.


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


1. Henceforth, the respondent chief and his department shall comply with 1‑15 and 1‑19(a), G.S.


2. The complaint is dismissed as to the respondents Lenore Davis, Information Officer, and Margaret Shanks, First Selectman, of the Town of Simsbury.


Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of November 9, 1988.



Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission