FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Roger J. Harris,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 88-445

 

State of Connecticut Commission on Victim Services,

 

Respondent October 25, 1989

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 15, 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 and conclusions of law are reached:

 

1. The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. It is found that on October 20, 1987, the complainant, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, treated the victim of a crime for certain injuries.

 

3. It is found that the complainant substantially assisted the victim in the preparation, typing, notarization and mailing of a claim application for compensation filed with the respondent on or about October 28, 1987.

 

4. It is found that on May 3, 1988 the respondent denied the victim's claim for compensation based on the extent of the victim's cooperation with law enforcement agencies in their efforts to apprehend and prosecute the offender.

 

5. It is found that, beginning on or about May 12, 1988 and continuing through October 28, 1988, the complainant unsuccessfully sought from the respondent information underlying or explaining the respondent's denial of the victim's claim.

 

6. By letter dated October 14, 1988 the complainant requested of the respondent copies of and access to any records relevant to the denial of the victim's claim, including:

 

a. minutes of the respondent's deliberations;

 

b. notes made by members of the respondent;

 

Docket #FIC 88-445 Page 2

 

c. the respondent's definition of "timely filing";

 

d. the respondent's definition of "self-serving statements";

 

e. time logs;

 

f. telephone conversations and notes;

 

g. examples of the victim's non-cooperation with law enforcement officials; and

 

h. any determination by the respondent's consultant that the victim's injuries were not consistent with an assault by persons unknown to the victim.

 

7. By letter dated October 25, 1988 the respondent replied to the complainant's request by enclosing copies of those records which the respondent considered to be public records:

 

a. the claim application described in paragraph 3, above;

 

b. the New London Police Department's incident report on the victim's assault; and

 

c. the letter from the respondent to the victim denying his claim for compensation.

 

8. By letter of complaint dated November 3, 1988 and filed with the Commission on November 7, 1988, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the response described in paragraph 7, above, was not prompt and did not include any information other than that which the respondent knew the complainant already to have.

 

9. At the hearing, the respondent provided the complainant with copies of the following additional records:

 

a. "Commission Action -- Initial Evaluation" dated May 3, 1988 indicating the reason for the denial of the victim's claim;

 

b. "Claim Review 5/3/88" indicating the reason for the denial of the victim's claim, and with names of other claimants deleted;

 

c. a letter dated January 28, 1988 from the respondent's consultant to the victim requesting that the victim contact the consultant;

 

d. a letter dated October 30, 1987 from the respondent to the New London Police Department requesting a copy of the department's incident report on the victim;

 


Docket #FIC 88-445 Page 3

 

e. a telephone message dated March 3, 1988 from the victim to the respondent;

 

f. four telephone messages from the complainant to the respondent, one to "John" dated May 12, 1988, one to "John" dated August 8, 1988, one to "Irene" dated August 8, 1988, and one to "JF" dated October 28, 1988;

 

g. minutes of the May 3, 1988 meeting of the respondent, with names of claimants other than the victim deleted;

 

h. a letter dated October 14, 1988 from the complainant to state Senator Kenneth Przybysz;

 

i. a letter dated October 17, 1988 from Senator Przybysz to the administrator of the respondent;

 

j. a letter dated November 4, 1988 from the administrator of the respondent to Senator Przybysz; and

 

k. the victim's rap sheet printout dated October 27, 1987, with nolles and dismissals deleted.

 

10. It is found that the respondent maintains no records that are responsive to those portions of the complainant's request described in paragraphs 6.c, 6.d and 6.e above.

 

11. It is found that the items described in paragraph 9, above, are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S., which are responsive to portions of the complainant's request as described in paragraph 6, above.

 

12. It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., by not providing the documents described in paragraph 9, above, promptly upon request.

 

13. It is found that the respondent's file on the victim additionally contains records of:

 

a. employment information;

 

b. wage information;

 

c. medical information;

 

d. the victim's address; and

 

e. the victim's participation or involvement in certain unspecified "personal" activities at the time of the respondent's investigation of the victim's claim.

 

Docket #FIC 88-445 Page 4

 

14. At the hearing, the complainant limited the scope of his remaining request to the records described in paragraphs 13.d and 13.e, above.

 

15. It is found that the records described in paragraphs 13.d and 13.e, above, are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S.

 

16. The respondent maintains that the records described in paragraphs 13.d and 13.e, above, are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(4), G.S., as records pertaining to strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims and litigation to which the public agency is a party until such litigation or claim has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled.

 

17. It is found, however, that the respondent is not a party to the victim's claim within the meaning of 1-19(b)(4), G.S., but rather adjudicates that claim.

 

18. It is concluded therefore that 1-19(b)(4), G.S., does not exempt the subject records from disclosure.

 

19. The respondent also maintains that the subject records are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(2), G.S., as records contained in personnel, medical or similar files, the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy.

 

20. It is concluded that the subject records are contained in a similar file within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

21. The complainant maintains that he needs the victim's address in order to continue assisting the victim in appealing the respondent's denial of his claim.

 

22. It is concluded that, under the circumstances of this case, there is a legitimate public interest in enabling the complainant to continue to provide information and assistance to the victim regarding his right to appeal the respondent's denial of his claim.

 

23. It is found that the information described in paragraph 13.e, above, formed a basis for the respondent's denial of the victim's claim for compensation, which denial was generally based on the extent of the victim's cooperation with law enforcement agencies.

 

24. It is concluded that, under the circumstances of this case, there is a legitimate public interest in the disclosure of information connecting the victim's cooperation with law enforcement agencies to the denial of his claim for compensation, where such information may enable the complainant to continue to assist the victim.

 

Docket #FIC 88-445 Page 5

 

25. The respondent maintains, however, that disclosure of the information described in paragraphs 13.d and 13.e would invade the victim's personal privacy.

 

26. The complainant maintains that by virtue of his relationship to the victim as treating doctor, disclosure of the information described in paragraphs 13.d and 13.e would not invade the victim's personal privacy.

 

28. It is found that the respondent offered no evidence to prove that the victim provided his address to the respondent with the expectation that his address was or would remain confidential with respect to the complainant.

 

29. It is also found that an objection by the victim to the disclosure of the information described in paragraphs 13.d and 13.e, above, would, under the circumstances of this case, be sufficient to outweigh the complainant's interest in disclosure.

 

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

 

1. Henceforth the respondent shall strictly comply with the requirements of 1-15 and 1-19(a) regarding the prompt provision of copies of public records.

 

2. The respondent shall forthwith write to the victim at his last known address, inform him of the complainant's request for the records described in paragraphs 13.d and 13.e, above, inquire whether the victim has any objection to the disclosure of those records to the complainant, and inform the victim that the records will be disclosed unless the respondent receives a written objection within 30 days. Unless the respondent receives a written objection from the victim within 45 days of the date of issuance of the final decision in this matter, it shall then forthwith disclose the subject records to the complainant.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of October 25, 1989.

 

 

Tina C. Frappier

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

Docket #FIC 88-445 Page 6

 

PURSUANT TO SECTION 4-180(c), G.S. THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION, OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.

 

THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:

ROGER J. HARRIS

159 Ocean Avenue

New London, CT 06320

 

STATE OF CONNECTICUT, COMMISSION ON VICTIM SERVICES

c/o Peter E. Wiese

Assistant Attorney General

MacKenzie Hall

110 Sherman Street

Hartford, CT 06105

 

 

Tina C. Frappier

Acting Clerk of the Commission