FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
against Docket #FIC 91-125
Middletown Department of Health,
Respondent December 11, 1991
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 26, 1991, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. Docket #FIC 91-177, Margaret Catalano v. Middletown Building Department, was consolidated for hearing with the above-captioned matter.
At the September 26, 1991 hearing on the above-captioned matter, the respondent made a request to submit two documents to the Commission for in camera review. The request for an in camera submission was granted by the hearing officer. The records at issue were submitted for in camera inspection on October 3, 1991. The following documents were submitted for in camera review:
Document Name In Camera Document #
Complaint to the Middletown Health
Department About Property Located
at 144 Grand Street 91-125-1
Copies of Three Photographs and
a Copy of a Telephone Message
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.
Docket #FIC 91-125 Page 2
2. By letter dated April 22, 1991, the complainant requested that the respondent provide her with the name of the individual who complained about her property and copies of any other complaints the respondent had in its files concerning her property.
3. By reply letter dated April 29, 1991 (hereinafter "April letter"), the respondent informed the complainant that any inquiries regarding her property should be addressed to the Middletown Building Division.
4. By letter dated May 21, 1991, and filed with the Commission on May 23, 1991, the complainant alleged a failure of the respondent to respond to and comply with her document request.
5. It is found that the requested documents are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S.
6. It is found that the respondent did record the name of the individual who complained about the complainant's property on a telephone message slip.
7. At the hearing on this matter the respondent provided the complainant with copies of three letters, dated September 19, 1990, April 29 and August 27, 1991, respectively.
8. At the hearing the respondent indicated that the only other items contained in its file regarding the complainant's property are the two documents that have been submitted for in camera review:
(a) an investigation log containing information related to
a complaint registered with the respondent regarding
the complainant's property located at 144 Grand Street
(in camera document #91-125-1); and
(b) copies of three photographs of the complainant's
property and a telephone message recording the
identity of the individual who complained about the
complainant's property (in camera document #91-125-2).
Docket #FIC 91-125 Page 3
9. The respondent claims that the records request was not complied with because there could not be total compliance.
10. The respondent maintains that it is an enforcement agency with police powers and a civilian complaint reporting procedure wherein complainants are treated like police informants.
11. The respondent also argues that some of the information requested by the complainant is exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(3)(A), G.S.
12. It is found that Article I of Chapter 14 of the Middletown Code of Ordinances (hereinafter "Ordinance"), sets forth the minimum standards for housing in Middletown (hereinafter "Code").
13. It is found that in accordance with 14.11 of the Ordinance, the respondent is charged with enforcement of the Code.
14. It is found that as part of its enforcement and policing responsibilities as set forth in the Code, the respondent can conduct field inspections, issue notices of violation and orders to comply which carry the threat of civil and/or criminal penalties for persons failing to comply.
15. It is found that the documents at issue are part of a file of information compiled in connection with the respondent's investigation into allegations of Code violations.
16. It is found that the respondent acquired the information in its capacity as a law enforcement agency.
17. Section 1-19(b)(3), G.S., in relevant part states:
"Nothing in section 1-15, [et seq.] shall be construed to require disclosure of...records of law enforcement agencies not otherwise available to the public which records were compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of crime, if the disclosure of said records would not be in the public interest because it would result in the disclosure of (A) the identity of informants not otherwise known,...."
Docket #FIC 91-125 Page 4
18. It is found that in the spirit of good government and compliance with Connecticut's Freedom of Information Act (hereinafter "FOIA"), the respondent should have promptly informed the complainant that it maintained a record of the information she requested but could not totally comply with the document request.
19. It is found that the respondent should have promptly provided the complainant with those documents that it believed it could fully disclose, and provide the complainant with the basis for any exemption claimed for documents that it chose to withhold from disclosure.
20. After a thorough review of the documents described in paragraph 8 of the findings above, it is found that lines 1 and 19 of in camera document #91-125-1 and lines 3, 5, 10, 12, 13, 14 and 15 of in camera document #91-125-2 may be redacted in accordance with the provisions of 1-19(b)(3)(A), G.S.
21. It is found that the information set forth in paragraph 20 of the findings, above, identifies or otherwise describes the individual who complained to the respondent about the complainant's property.
22. It is found that disclosure of the information described in paragraphs 20 and 21 of the findings, above, would severely hamper, or perhaps have a chilling effect on the ability of the respondent to carry out its enforcement and policing responsibilities with assistance from members of the public who report Code violations.
23. It is found that the remainder of each of the documents described more fully in paragraph 8 of the findings, above, should be provided to the complainant.
24. It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-15 and 1-19, G.S.
Docket #FIC 91-125 Page 5
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The respondent shall immediately provide the complainant with the requested documents as set forth in paragraphs 20 and 23 of the findings, above.
2. Henceforth the respondent shall strictly comply with the provisions of 1-15 and 1-19, G.S., and when the respondent makes a determination that total compliance is inappropriate, it shall duly inform the requester in accordance with paragraphs 18 and 19 of the findings, above.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of December 11, 1991.
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 91-125 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:
144 Grand Street
Middletown, CT 06457
Middletown Department of Health
c/o Attorney Timothy P. Lynch
City Attorney's Office
Middletown, CT 06457
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission