FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Brian Garnett and WFSB/TV3,

 

Complainants

 

against Docket #FIC 88-57

 

Suffield Board of Education,

 

Respondent June 8, 1988

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 4, 1988, at which time the complainants 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 February 2, 1988 the complainants made a request of the respondent for copies of "any written reports, correspondence and complaints" which prompted the suspension and eventual resignation of David Johnson, former principal of Suffield High School.

 

3. By letter dated February 9, 1988 the respondent denied the complainants' request, based upon the opinion of the superintendent of schools that disclosure would constitute an invasion of privacy.

 

4. By letter dated February 12, 1988 the respondent informed Mr. Johnson of the request for records, pursuant to 1-20a(b), G.S.

 

5. By letter of complaint dated February 17, 1988 and filed with the Commission on February 22, 1988 the complainants appealed the denial of their request for records.

 

6. By letter dated February 24, 1988 Mr. Johnson filed an objection to the disclosure of the requested information. Such objection was attested to by Attorney John Gesmonde, who appeared on behalf of Mr. Johnson at hearing.

 

7. At hearing, the respondent requested that the Commission conduct an in camera inspection of the records in question, which request was denied.

 

Docket #FIC 88-57 Page Two

 

8. The respondent claimed at hearing that even an admission that there were complaints against Mr. Johnson that resulted in his dismissal would constitute an invasion of personal privacy, and that it was, therefore, reluctant to offer evidence concerning the nature of any existing documents.

 

9. The respondent asserted, however, that there is no document in existence which reflects a settlement between it and Mr. Johnson.

 

10. The respondent further asserted that all of the documents in question were generated within the Suffield school system, none having been submitted as complaints from students or parents.

 

11. Section 10-151c, G.S. provides that records of teacher performance and evaluation shall not be deemed to be public records. "Teacher," for purposes of 10-151c, G.S., means "each certified professional employee below the rank of superintendent employed by a board of education in a position requiring a certificate issued by the state board of education."

 

12. It is concluded that to the extent that the documents in question are "records of teacher performance and evaluation" within the meaning of 10-151c, G.S., such documents are not subject to mandatory disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

 

13. The respondent conceded at hearing that certain of the documents are not records of teacher performance and evaluation within the meaning of 10-151c, G.S., but claims with respect to such documents that their disclosure would constitute an invasion of personal privacy within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

14. It is found that to the extent the documents in question contain information unrelated to the performance or fitness of Mr. Johnson as a public employee, the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy, such documents are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

15. It is found that to the extent the documents in question relate to the performance or fitness of Mr. Johnson as a public employee, there is a legitimate public interest in them and their disclosure would not constitute an invasion of personal privacy within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 88-57 Page Three

 

16. It is concluded that to the extent the documents in question relate to the performance or fitness of Mr. Johnson as a public employee and are not exempted from disclosure by 10-151c, G.S., such documents are subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

 

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

 

1. The respondent forthwith shall provide the complainants with copies of any written reports, correspondence or complaints related to the suspension and eventual resignation of David Johnson, former principal of Suffield High School, with the exception of documents exempted from disclosure by 10-151c, G.S.

 

2. In complying with paragraph 1 of the Order, above, the respondent may mask or delete information unrelated to the performance or fitness of Mr. Johnson as a public employee, the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of June 8, 1988.

 

Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission