FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Elizabeth C. Willen and The Hartford Courant,
against Docket #FIC 88-427
New Britain Board of Police Commissioners, New Britain Office of the Corporation Counsel and James Raines,
Respondents February 8, 1989
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 8, 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 board and office of the corporation counsel are public agencies within the meaning of §1-18a(a), G.S.
2. On September 10, 1988 the New Britain police department received a citizen's complaint, by telephone, concerning the on-duty performance of James Raines, then a sergeant in the department.
3. The allegations against Sgt. Raines, if proved, could have led to criminal prosecution. However, after a consultation with Hartford's chief state's attorney it was decided that there would be no criminal prosecution of the matter.
4. The New Britain police department's internal affairs investigation of the complaint against Sgt. Raines lasted from September 10, 1988 to October 18, 1988 and produced a stack of documents approximately 1 1/2" to 2" thick.
5. A hearing before the respondent board on the matter of the complaint against Sgt. Raines was scheduled for October 25, 1988. On or about October 18, 1988 Sgt. Raines resigned and the hearing before the respondent board was cancelled.
6. By letter dated October 19, 1988 the complainants made a request of the respondent office of the corporation counsel for all documents pertaining to the internal investigation of the complaint against Sgt. Raines.
Docket #FIC 88-427 Page Two
7. By letter dated October 19, 1988 the respondent office of corporation counsel advised the complainants that Mr. Raines and his collective bargaining representative would be notified of their request, pursuant to §1-20a, G.S. Notice of the complainants' request was sent to Mr. Raines by letter dated October 19, 1988 and, by letter of the same date, Mr. Raines notified the respondent office of corporation counsel of his objection to the release of the requested records.
8. By letter dated October 20, 1988 the respondent office of corporation counsel notified the complainants of Mr. Raines's objection and stated that the records therefore would not be released except by order of the Commission.
9. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on October 24, 1988 the complainants appealed the respondents' denial of access to the requested documents.
10. At hearing Mr. Raines appeared and, at his request, was made a party to the above matter.
11. Also at hearing the respondents' motion to quash subpoenas issued by the complainants, on the ground that only the Commission has authority to issue a subpoena in a matter before it, was denied.
12. The respondents board and office of corporation counsel stated at hearing that they gave notice to Mr. Raines of the complainants' request on the ground that the subject records were personnel, medical or similar files within the meaning of §1-20a(b), G.S. They did not, however, assert any claim of a right to privacy with respect to such records.
13. The respondent Raines claims that there is no public interest in disclosure of the requested records and that their disclosure would constitute an invasion of privacy within the meaning of §1-19(b)(2), G.S.
14. The respondent Raines further claims that he believed he was promised nondisclosure of the records in exchange for his resignation.
15. It is found that the internal affairs records in question are public records within the meaning of §1-18a(d), G.S.
16. It is further found that the records in question are personnel, medical or similar files within the meaning of §1-19(b)(2), G.S.
Docket #FIC 88-427 Page Three
17. It is found, however, that there is a legitimate and overriding public interest in the performance of police officers and in their fitness to perform, including any allegations of misconduct.
18. It is concluded that disclosure of the records in question, which document serious allegations concerning the on-duty conduct of a police officer and the investigation thereof, would not constitute an invasion of personal privacy within the meaning of §1-19(b)(2), G.S.
19. It is found that Mr. Raines was never promised, implicitly or explicitly, that the records in question would not be disclosed. Even if such a promise had been made, it would be ineffective against the rights to disclosure guaranteed by 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 respondents board and office of corporation counsel forthwith shall provide the complainants with access to inspect and copy all records concerning the September 10, 1988 citizen's complaint against James Raines and the internal affairs investigation thereof, referred to in paragraph 4 of the findings, above.
Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of February 8, 1989.
Karen J. Haggett
Clerk of the Commission