FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Anastasia E. Fitch
against Docket #FIC 88-482
Director, Mansfield Training School of the State of Connecticut Department of Mental Retardation
Respondent February 22, 1989
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on January 23, 1989, 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. At the time in question, the complainant was an employee of the Mansfield Training School.
3. On December 5, 1988, the complainant orally asked the respondent's personnel officer to allow her to see the contents of her complete personnel file.
4. The complainant further requested to inspect "anything and everything" with her name on it, including evaluations, counseling results and the statements made during the investigation leading to her termination.
5. By letter dated December 8, 1988, and filed with the Commission on December 9, 1988, the complainant claimed that on December 5, 1988, she was not allowed to see any evaluations, counseling results and written statements made during the investigation leading to her termination in her file.
6. The complainant further claimed in her letter to the Commission that on December 7, 1988, the respondent met with her and showed her a copy of her job application and test scores, but denied her access to the other documents she had requested.
Docket #FIC 88-482 Page Two
7. At the hearing, the complainant claimed that on January 20, 1989, she received most of the records requested but that she still sought to inspect any notes pertaining to her termination made by the respondent's personnel officer.
8. The respondent claims that:
a. all non-exempt records requested were mailed to the complainant on January 18, 1989; and,
b. any items withheld from the complainant are preliminary drafts and notes exempt from disclosure pursuant to §1-19(b)(1), G.S.
9. It is found that on December 5, 1988, the respondent's personnel officer denied the complainant access to all the items listed in paragraph 11, below, which he considered confidential.
10. It is found that on December 7, 1988, the respondent disclosed to the complainant a copy of her job application and test scores, but did not allow her to inspect any other records in her files.
11. It is further found that by letter dated January 18, 1989, after consultation with the respondent, the respondent's attorney furnished the following evaluation, counseling, and pre-termination statement records to the complainant:
a. Training evaluation by N. Belanger;
b. Notification of termination by C. Devaux;
c. Written statement, dated November 8, 1988, by N. Eais;
d. Note, dated November 9, 1988, by T. Gale;
e. Written statement, dated November 8, 1988, by Amon-Cox;
f. Written statement, dated November 7, 1988, by S. Jones;
g. Written statement, undated, by C. Micena;
h. Note, dated November 1, 1988, by T. Gale;
i. Supervisor's records of formal counseling dated November 3 and 4, 1988, respectively, by S. Carter.
Docket #FIC 88-482 Page Three
12. It is found that the items described in paragraph 11, above, which were requested by the complainant, are public records within the meaning of §§1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.
13. It is found that the complainant should have had the right of access to, and to copy or to inspect promptly, the records described in paragraph 11, above, after her requests of December 5 and 7, 1988, pursuant to §§1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.
14. It is concluded that the respondent violated §§1-15, and 1-19(a), G.S., by denying the complainant access to public records on December 5 and 7, 1988.
15. It is further concluded that the respondent violated §1-19b(a)(2), G.S., by refusing to disclose information in its personnel files to the complainant, who was the subject of such information, on December 5 and 7, 1988.
16. It is found that the January 18, 1989 mailing to the complainant of copies of public records she initially requested on December 5, 1988, well over forty days, was not reasonably prompt.
17. It is concluded that the respondent violated §1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to respond promptly to the complainant's request.
18. It is found that the respondent did not, by the January 18, 1989 mailing, provide the complainant with access to the notes which she sought to inspect.
19. It is found that the notes sought by the complainant constitute preliminary drafts or notes.
20. It is also found, however, that the notes withheld formed part of the basis for the respondent's personnel officer's recommendations to his superior that the complainant's employment be terminated.
21. It is concluded that the personnel officer's notes sought by the complainant constitute a report comprising part of the process by which governmental decisions and policies are formulated.
22. It is concluded that the notes requested are public records under §§1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.
23. It is found that the respondent failed to prove that he had predetermined that the public interest in withholding the documents clearly outweighed the public interest in disclosure.
Docket #FIC 88-482 Page Four
24. It is concluded that the notes requested are not exempt from disclosure under §1-19(b)(1), G.S.
25. It is concluded, therefore that the respondent violated §§1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., by denying the complainant access to the notes.
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 provisions of §§1-15, 1-19(a), and 1-19b, G.S.
2. The respondent forthwith shall provide the complainant with a copy of the respondent's personnel officer's notes pertaining to the complainant's termination.
3. The respondent shall cause a memorandum to be circulated to each of its employees alerting them to their responsibilities under the Freedom of Information Act when responding to requests to inspect or copy public records.
4. The Commission notes that the respondent's practice of requiring a person to give twenty-four hours advance notice in order to inspect a personnel file, although not at issue in the above-captioned complaint, is inconsistent with the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act. The Commission strongly urges the respondent to abandon this practice.
Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of February 22, 1989.
Karen J. Haggett
Clerk of the Commission