FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Patricia A. Hines and the Fairfield Citizen-News,

 

Complainants

 

against Docket #FIC 88-51

 

Investigation Division, Fairfield Police Department and Fairfield Police Department,

 

Respondents May 25, 1988

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 30, 1988, at which time 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 letter dated January 14, 1988 Gregory N. Heires, a reporter for the complainant Citizen-News, made a request of the respondent for the following documents relating to an assault allegedly committed by Richard Cellar:

 

a. All supplemental reports prepared;

 

b. The affidavit prepared by Lori Motel regarding her alleged assault by Richard Cellar as described in incident report #87-19546;

 

c. The arrest warrant charging Richard Cellar with assault in the third degree;

 

d. Court transcript relating to legal proceedings regarding incident #87-19546;

 

e. Any medical records obtained by the respondents concerning the injuries sustained by Lori Motel;

 

Docket #FIC 88-51 Page 2

 

f. Any correspondence between the respondents and the Office of the State's Attorney in Bridgeport regarding incident #87-19546; and

 

g. Transcripts of the final disposition of the court proceedings regarding incident #87-19546.

 

3. By letter dated January 20, 1988 Lieutenant John McLaine of the respondent investigation division denied Gregory Heires access to the requested information, claiming that the information he sought was exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

 

4. By letter of complaint dated February 5, 1988 and filed with the Commission on February 16, 1988 the complainants appealed the denial of their request.

 

5. With respect to the documents described at paragraph 2a, above, it is found that there are approximately 10 supplemental reports concerning the alleged assault in question.

 

6. It is also found that the investigation concerning the assault has been concluded by the respondents, and that Richard Cellar, the subject of said investigation, has stated that he has no objection to the disclosure of the subject reports.

 

7. The respondents claim, however, that all of the supplemental reports are exempt from mandatory disclosure under 1-19(b)(3), G.S.

 

8. The respondents argue that disclosure of the supplemental reports would set a dangerous precedent because every file contained in the police department would then be disclosable to the public.

 

9. It is found, however, that the respondents failed to prove that the supplemental reports described in paragraph 5, above, are exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(3), G.S., or under any other provision of the Freedom of Information Act, other state statute or federal law.

 

10. It is therefore concluded that the supplemental reports prepared by the respondents concerning the incident in question are not exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(3), G.S.

 

11. It is therefore concluded that the respondents violated 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to disclose a copies of the supplemental reports promptly.

 

Docket #FIC 88-51 Page 3

 

12. With respect to the documents described at paragraphs 2b, 2c and 2d, above, it is found that the respondents do not have copies of these records. At the hearing, Captain Sandbrook, a member of the respondent police department, testified that these documents are in the custody of the court.

 

13. It is therefore concluded that the respondents' failure to provide the complainants with copies of the documents described at paragraphs 2b, 2c and 2d, above, did not violate 1-15 or 1-19(a), G.S.

 

14. With respect to the documents described at paragraphs 2e and 2g, above, it is found that the documents do not exist.

 

15. With respect to paragraph 2f, above, it is found that the respondents failed to prove that these documents do not exist.

 

16. The Commission notes that had counsel for the respondents been more familiar with its prior decisions addressing the issue in question, the hearing would have proceeded in a more efficient manner.

 

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

 

1. The respondents shall forthwith provide the complainants with copies of the records more fully described at paragraphs 2a and 2f of the findings, above.

 

2. If the documents described at paragraph 2f of the findings, above, do not exist, the respondents shall provide the complainants with an affidavit stating that they have conducted a thorough search of their files and that these records do not exist.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of May 25, 1988.

 

 

Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission