FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

West Hartford News,

 

Complainant,

 

against Docket #FIC 88-87

 

Superintendent of Schools of the Town of West Hartford,

 

Respondent July 13, 1988

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 2, 1988, at which time the complainant 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 January 14, 1988, the complainant requested access to:

 

a. records maintained by the respondent that relate to charges or allegations of misconduct against Hall High School girls varsity soccer coach, Parker Simonds,

 

b. complaints against Mr. Simonds,

 

c. findings of the independent investigator who looked into charges of misconduct against Mr. Simonds,

 

d. correspondence relating to any allegations of misconduct by Mr. Simonds,

 

e. and records of any probation periods to which Mr. Simonds was subject which, as explained, resulted from charges of misconduct.

 

3. By letters dated January 20 and 29, 1988, the respondent denied the complainant's request, claiming 10-151c, G.S., exempted records of teacher performance and evaluations from disclosure.

 

Docket #FIC 88-87 Page Two

 

4. By letter dated February 9, 1988, the complainant clarified its request, explaining that it did not want records of teacher performance and evaluation.

 

5. By letter dated February 23, 1988, the respondent again denied the complainant's request.

 

6. By letter dated March 8, 1988, and filed with the Commission on March 14, 1988, the complainant appealed to the Commission.

 

7. At the hearing, the hearing officer granted Mr. Simonds's motion to be made a party in the case. The hearing officer denied Mr. Simonds's motion to dismiss the case.

 

8. Also at the hearing, the complainant withdrew its request for the records described in paragraph 2c, above. The complainant further clarified that it does not seek records of administrative correspondence between Mr. Simonds and the Town of West Hartford Board of Education.

 

9. The respondent and Mr. Simonds claim that the records in question are exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(2), G.S., as personnel files whose disclosure would constitute an invasion of personal privacy. The respondent and Mr. Simonds also claim that the records are exempt from disclosure under 10-151c, G.S., as records of teacher performance and evaluation.

 

10. It is found that at least one group of students and one parent filed complaints about Mr. Simonds.

 

11. It is found that actions were taken to follow up on these complaints, such as conferences between each student who complained and the school athletic director.

 

12. It is found that the requested records are part of the personnel file of a public employee.

 

13. It is also found that there is a legitimate public interest in the disclosure of the requested records.

 

14. It is further found that disclosure would not constitute an invasion of the personal privacy of the subject coach, who voluntarily chose to serve the public and be paid with public funds.

 

Docket #FIC 88-87 Page Three

 

15. It is concluded that the requested records, described in paragraphs 2a, b, d and e, above, are not exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

16. It is found, nonetheless, that the identities of those students who complained about Mr. Simonds may be exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(11), G.S., to the extent they have not already waived confidentiality.

 

17. It is also found that the records described in paragraphs 2a, b, d and e, above, are records of complaints and of how complaints were handled, and, therefore, are not records of teacher performance or evaluation.

 

18. It is concluded, therefore, that the requested records are not exempt from disclosure under 10-151c, G.S.

 

19. Thus it is concluded that the respondent violated 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., by denying the complainant's request for access to the records described in paragraphs 2a, b, d and e, above.

 

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 access to the records described in paragraphs 2a, b, d and e, of the findings above. The respondent may redact, mask or otherwise conceal information that identifies persons other than Mr. Simonds, to the extent such identities are not publicly known already.

 

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

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of July 13, 1988.

 

Catherine H. Lynch

Acting Clerk of the Commission