FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision

 

Arthur E. Azzarito and New Fairfield Taxpayers Association,

 

Complainants,

 

against Docket #FIC 91-186

 

Superintendent, New Fairfield Public Schools and Karen Perkins,

 

Respondents February 19, 1992

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 1, 1991, at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.

 

At hearing Karen Perkins was granted party status pursuant to 1-21i(b), G.S.

 

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. By letter dated June 17, 1991 the complainant requested copies of records pertaining to sick leave concerning Karen Perkins, an employee of the New Fairfield Board of Education.

 

3. The complainants' letter included requests for records showing: (1) the total number of sick days that were accumulated from her first day of employment to her last day of performing her duties on January 1, 1991; (2) the total number of sick days paid to her from the first day of her employment up to the date of the request on June 17, 1991; (3) The total number of sick days remaining after June 17, 1991 request; (4) the amount of money paid to her up to June 17, 1991; and (5) the date on which she last performed her duties.

 

4. After the records were not provided, complainant Azzarito filed his appeal with this Commission on July 8, 1991.

 

#FIC 91-186 Page Two

 

5. The respondent claims the requested records are exempt pursuant to 1-19(b)(2), G.S., because their disclosure would constitute an invasion of Ms. Perkins privacy in that by characterizing any absences as sick leave or sick time, the reason for her absence from work is disclosed.

 

6. It is found that Ms. Perkins objects to the disclosure of the requested records.

 

7. It is found that the complainant Azzarito was told by the respondent Superintendent that Ms. Perkins had been sick for several weeks on February 22, 1991, and it is probable that Ms. Perkins was out on sick leave until the end of the school year.

 

8. It is found that the complainant taxpayers organization is attempting to determine whether Ms. Perkins was paid in accordance with the terms of the contract between the New Fairfield Board of Education and the New Fairfield Education Association.

 

9. It is found that the contract mentioned at paragraph 8 provides at Article 51.2: "Group long term disability will be provided. Benefits will begin after ninety (90) days of disability. Teachers who qualify for long term disability benefits shall not be paid sick pay by the Board during the period of such eligibility (emphasis provided)."

 

10. It is found that there was public knowledge of Ms. Perkins' use of sick time, although there was uncertainty as to the specific amount of sick time used.

 

11. It is found further that complainant Azzarito is not seeking information about the nature of Ms. Perkins illness or health: his request is limited to a request for records concerning Ms. Perkins sick pay compensation.

 

12. It is concluded that Ms. Perkins has no reasonable expectation of confidentiality regarding the characterization of her compensation and absence from work so long as the characterization is restricted to the terms of her contract, i.e., whether it is sick leave or sick pay, or whether it falls within some other permitted form of leave or compensation that is recognized in her contract.

 

13. It is found further that a reasonable person would not suffer embarrassment as a result of the disclosure of information concerning sick time and compensation, because sick time is an ordinary benefit of employment that is generally used

 

#FIC 91-186 Page Three

 

by employees in accordance with specific contract provisions.

 

14. It is further found that public employees are not protected under 1-19(b)(2), G.S. from any embarassment that might result from disclosure of records showing an abuse of sick time, because such disclosure would not be an invasion of personal privacy within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.; the exemption was not intended to shield the misconduct of public officials from public knowledge.

 

15. It is concluded that the respondents have not met their burden of proof with respect to their claim that the requested records are exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

16. It is found that while there was no evidence at hearing that Ms. Perkins had abused her contractual rights to receive pay for sick time, the refusal of the respondents to disclose the records raises questions concerning their conduct that can only be resolved by disclosure.

 

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

 

1. The respondent superintendent shall provide the complainants with copies of the requested records within one week of the date of mailing the final decision in this case.

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of February 19, 1992.

 

 

Debra L. Rembowski

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

#FIC 91-186 Page Four

 

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:

Arthur E. Azzarito

New Fairfield Taxpayers Association

P.O. Box 8321

New Fairfield, CT 06812

 

Superintendent, New Fairfield Public Schools

c/o Atty. Jay E. Bovilsky

CityPlace I

185 Asylum Street

Hartford, CT 06103

 

Karen Perkins

c/o Atty. William J. Dolan

21 Oak Street

Hartford, CT 06106

 

 

Debra L. Rembowski

Acting Clerk of the Commission