FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Charles Dixon and The Waterbury Republican,

 

Complainants

 

against Docket #FIC 88-463

 

Watertown Board of Education and Watertown Superintendent of Schools,

 

Respondents June 28, 1989

 

The above captioned matter was heard as a contested case on January 6, 1989 and on January 23, 1989. At these times the parties appeared and presented evidence 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 received November 22, 1988, the complainants requested access to the portions of the personnel file of Stephen Adamski which were relevant to his suspension for thirty days without pay on October 11, 1988.

 

3. The respondent superintendent denied access to the records on October 24, 1988, because both Adamski and the teachers union claimed that release of the information in the Adamski personnel file would constitute an invasion of personal privacy.

 

4. At hearing in response to his request, Stephen Adamski was named a party, and the Waterbury Education Association was named an intervenor.

 

5. The respondents claim that the records pertaining to the disciplinary action of the respondent board are exempt from disclosure under 10-151c and 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

6. The complainants stated at hearing that the names of students may be redacted from the records.

 

Docket #FIC 88-463 Page two

 

7. It is found that the requested records consist of seven letters and one written comment.

 

8. It is found that letter #1 was written in June, 1984. It is from the principal of Watertown High School, and is directed to Stephen Adamski. It is one page long. It concerns Adamski's performance. It states how the building superintendent became aware of a situation. In the letter the principal suggests changes. The letter contains names of teachers and students.

 

9. It is found that letter #2 was written in 1987, roughly two years later than letter #1. It is from the building administrator to Stephen Adamski. It describes a situation in which Adamski was involved. It refers to an earlier similar situation. It identifies students, and goes into the family

history of one student. It takes a position with respect to the situation.

 

10. It is found that letter #3 was written in July, 1988. It is from the principal of the high school to Stephen Adamski. It gives a historical review of events and situations, and mentions a student who receives special education services. It contains a statement concerning action to be taken.

 

11. It is found that letter #4 was written in July, 1988. It is from the respondent superintendent to Adamski. It refers to the letter from the principal. It sums up the previous history.

 

12. It is found that letter #5 was written September 14, 1988. It is a two page letter from the respondent superintendent to Adamski. It contains a general discussion of incidents, statements related to those incidents and evaluation. It states options available and requests a decision on the part of Adamski as to a time line.

 

13. It is found that letter #6 was written to the respondent superintendent from Adamski. It indicates the position he took.

 

14. It is found that letter #7 was written by the respondent superintendent to Adamski. It indicates the action the superintendent is taking.

 

15. It is found that item #8 is a comment written by another teacher indicating some concern regarding the performance of Adamski.

 

Docket #FIC 88-463 Page three

 

16. It is found that the letters are personnel records within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

17. It is found that students and teachers, who are inadvertently drawn into matters of alleged misconduct of certain teachers, have substantial privacy rights where incident reports, letters, or other records document their presence, their family history, or their inadvertent involvement in some alleged misconduct.

 

18. It is found that the portion of letters #1 through #5 and item #8, described herein at paragraphs 9 through 12, and 15, which identify teachers or students who were inadvertently involved in the reports concerning Stephen Adamski, are exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(2), G.S., because disclosure would constitute an invasion of personal privacy for those students and teachers, and because there is no countervailing legitimate public interest in disclosure of their identity.

 

19. It is found that Stephen Adamski is a guidance counselor, a position requiring good judgment and responsible conduct.

 

20. It is found further that Adamski is a 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, see 10-145a-70, Regs. Conn. State Agencies.

 

21. It is concluded, therefore, that the portions of letters #1, #2, #4, and item #8, described herein at paragraphs 8, 9, 11, and 15, which deal with the performance and evaluation of Adamski are exempt from disclosure under 10-151c, G.S.

 

22. It is found that, in his capacity as a guidance counselor, Adamski has very limited privacy rights with respect to the records in his personnel file which show administrative decisions concerning his employment and their implementation and which are not exempt as records of performance and evaluation pursuant to 10-151c, G.S.

 

23. It is found under the circumstances of this case where there is substantial concern and legitimate public interest in regard to Adamski's suspension, that the public interest in disclosure clearly outweighs Adamski's limited privacy rights in his personnel file records which are not exempt from disclosure under 10-151c, G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 88-463 Page four

 

24. It is concluded, therefore, that while disclosure of portions of the records requested by the plaintiffs is barred by 10-151c, G.S., the respondent failed to prove that records showing administrative decisions concerning Adamski and their implementation are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

25. It is therefore concluded that while portions of letter #3 and letter #5, described herein at paragraphs 10 and 12, are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 10-151c, the portions of the letters which state the action to be taken, the options available and which request a decision on the part of Adamski are not exempt under 10-151c and 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

26. It is concluded, further, that letters #6 and #7, paragraphs 11 and 12 herein, are not exempt from disclosure under 10-151c and 1-19(b)(2), G.S., for the reasons stated above at paragraphs 22, 23, and 24.

 

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

 

1. The respondents shall provide access forthwith to the complainant to all eight items, described herein at paragraphs 8-15 above, which are within the scope of the complainants' request.

 

2. The respondents may make the following specific redactions of the requested records:

 

(a) The respondents may redact the portions of the requested records which identify specific students and teachers in letters #1 through #5 and item #8, described herein at paragraphs 9 through 12, and 15.

 

(b) The respondents may redact the portions of the requested records which pertain to the performance and evaluation of Adamski in letters #1 through #5 and item #8 pursuant to 10-151(c), G.S.

 

2. The respondents shall disclose forthwith the portions of letters #4 and #5 which state the action to be taken and the options available, and the request for a decision from Adamski.

 

3. The respondents shall disclose forthwith letters #6 and #7 to the complainants.

 

Docket #FIC 88-463 Page five

 

PURSUANT TO 4-180(c) C.G.S THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE F.O.I.C., OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.

 

THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:

CHARLES DIXON, WATERBURY REPUBLICAN, 389 Meadow Street,

P.O. Box 2090, Waterbury, CT 06722-2090

 

WATERTOWN BOARD OF EDUCATION AND STEPHEN J. ADAMSKI,

c/o Ronald Cordilico, Esquire, Legal Counsel, 31 School

Street, East Hartford, CT 06108-2638

 

WATERTOWN SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, c/o Mark Ostrowski, Esquire, Shipman & Goodwin, 799 Main Street, Hartford,

CT 06103

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 28, 1989.

 

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission