FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Thomas W. Mair,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 88-485

 

Chief of Police Gary Kology, Captain of Police Gary Mazzone, and Vernon Police Department,

 

Respondents July 26, 1989

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 1, 1989, at which time the the complainant 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 and conclusions of law are reached:

 

1. The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. By letter of complaint dated December 6, 1988, postmarked December 9, 1988 and received by the Commission on December 12, 1988, as amended by letter of complaint dated December 13, 1988 and received by the Commission on December 14, 1988, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents in August of 1988 had held a secret meeting at which he was the subject of discussion and criticism, alleging that the respondents had on September 22, 1988, October of 1988, November 22, 1988 and November 28, 1988 denied him both information pertaining to that meeting and copies of a certain six-page letter, and requesting that civil penalties be assessed against the respondents.

 

3. It is found that in August of 1988 members of the third shift of the Vernon Police Department met in the home of one of the members with the respondents Kology and Mazzone for the purpose of airing complaints about the performance of the complainant as a supervising officer.

 

4. It is found that one or two weeks following that meeting, the respondent Kology received a six-page letter containing allegations regarding the complainant's performance as a supervising officer.

 

Docket #FIC 88-485 Page 2

 

5. It is found that the complainant learned of the meeting described in paragraph 3, above, not later than September 22, 1988.

 

6. It is found that by letter mailed November 25, 1988, the complainant requested of the respondent:

 

a. any minutes or notes of the August 1988 meeting;

 

b. the sources, dates and contents of any oral statements concerning the complainant; and

 

c. a copy of the six-page letter described in paragraph 4, above.

 

7. It is found that by letter dated November 28, 1988 the respondent denied those portions of the complainant's request described in paragraph 6.a and 6.b, above.

 

8. It is found that the complainant's appeal was received and postmarked more than 30 days after the alleged denials of his requests on September 22, 1988 and October of 1988.

 

9. It is concluded therefore that, pursuant to 1-21i(b), G.S., the Commission lacks jurisdiction to hear those portions of the complainant's appeal that allege denials of his requests on September 22, 1988 and October of 1988.

 

10. It is also found that the complainant's appeal was received and postmarked more than 30 days after the meeting described in paragraph 3, above, and also more than 30 days after the complainant received notice in fact of that meeting.

 

11. It is concluded therefore that, pursuant to 1-21i(b), G.S., the Commission lacks jurisdiction to hear that portion of the complainant's appeal that alleges that the respondent held a secret meeting in August of 1988.

 

12. It is found that no records of the respondent exist which are responsive to that portion of the complainant's request described in paragraphs 6.a and 6.b, above.

 

13. It is also found that the complainant received from the respondent a copy of the six-page letter requested in paragraph 6.c, above, with certain information, from which the identify of certain members of the Vernon Police Department might be ascertained, masked.

 

14. It is found that the subject letter alleges incidents concerning the complainant's policies, performance and disciplinary procedures as a supervising officer of the Vernon Police Department.

 

Docket #FIC 88-485 Page 3

 

15. It is concluded that the subject letter is a public record within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S.

 

16. It is found that the members of the Vernon Police Department referenced in paragraph 13, above, were members who had prepared the subject letter and members who had encountered difficulties with the policies, performance and disciplinary procedures of the complainant.

 

17. The respondents maintained that disclosure of the masked information relating to the members' identities would violate their expectations of confidentiality in submitting the subject letter.

 

18. It is found that the subject letter is not contained in a personnel file within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

19. It is found, however, that the subject letter may be part of a similar file within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

20. It is found that 1-19(b)(2), G.S., does not exempt the subject letter or any portion of it from disclosure unless disclosure of part or all of the letter would constitute an invasion of personal privacy.

 

21. It is found that the subject letter refers only to incidents occuring in the ordinary course of the public duties of members of the Vernon Police Department.

 

22. It is also found that the subject letter contains no references to any private facts concerning members of the Vernon Police Department.

 

23. It is found that under the circumstances of this case, there is no reasonable expectation of confidentiality under established privacy law.

 

24. It is also found that the mere expectation of confidentiality is not in and of itself sufficient to make the subject letter exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

25. It is found that the members of the Vernon Police Department described in paragraph 16, above, are public employees who are vested with broad discretionary powers in their duties as law enforcement officers.

 

26. It is also found that there is a legitimate public interest in the identity of members of the Vernon Police Department who have experienced or reported specific complaints about the policies, performance and disciplinary procedures of their supervising officer.

 

Docket #FIC 88-485 Page 4

 

27. It is also found that the legitimate public interest in the disclosure of the identities of the Vernon Police Department members described in paragraph 16, above, outweighs any expectation of confidentiality that they may have held with respect to their identities.

 

28. It is therefore concluded that disclosure of the identities of the members of the Vernon Police Department described in paragraph 16, above, would not constitute an invasion of their personal privacy within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), and that therefore the information disclosing their identities is not exempt from disclosure.

 

29. It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to provide an unedited copy of the subject letter.

 

30. Under the circumstances of this case, the Commission in its discretion declines to impose a civil penalty against the respondents.

 

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

 

1. The respondents shall forthwith provide the complainant with an unedited copy of the requested six-page letter.

 

2. The remaining portions of the complaint are hereby dismissed.

 

Docket #FIC 88-485 Page 4

 

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:

THOMAS MAIR

42 Dockerel Road

Tolland, CT 06084

 

CHIEF OF POLICE, CAPTAIN OF POLICE AND VERNON POLICE DEPARTMENT C/O MICHAEL E. KALLET, ESQ.

Marder & Kallet, 46 South Frontage Road

Vernon, CT 06066

 

THOMAS PHELPS AND ROBERT E. BARKER

C/O MATTHEW J. BUCKLEY, ESQ. IBPO

285 Sorchester Avenue

Boston, MA 02127

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of July 26, 1989.

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission