FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision

 

Joan Coe,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 91-128

 

Alfred Shull, Chief of Police, Simsbury Police Department, Maryann Alimi, Personnel Administrator, Town of Simsbury and Captain Peter P. Sevetz, Jr., Simsbury Police Department,

 

Respondents May 13, 1992

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on August 19, 1991, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.

 

At the hearing on this matter, Captain Peter P. Sevetz, Jr. 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. On May 7, 1991, the complainant requested from the respondent Chief of Police access to inspect the full and complete police officer job application of respondent Captain Sevetz (hereinafter "Sevetz") filed with the Simsbury Police Department (hereinafter "SPD") in 1976. In addition, the complainant requested access to all resume materials that accompanied Sevetz's job application and any other material

that was required for the police officer position.

 

3. By reply letter dated May 10, 1991, the respondent Personnel Administrator (hereinafter "Administrator") informed the complainant that Sevetz objected to disclosure of the

 

Docket #FIC 91-128 Page 2

 

requested records and that the respondents would therefore not comply with her request.

 

4. By letter dated May 12, 1991 and filed with the Commission on May 14, 1991, the complainant appealed the respondents' denial of access to the requested records and asked the Commission to impose a civil penalty upon the custodian of the subject records.

 

5. It is found that pursuant to 1-20a(b), G.S., and by letter dated May 8, 1991, the Administrator informed Sevetz of the complainant's request to inspect records contained in his personnel file. The Administrator further informed Sevetz that unless the town of Simsbury (hereinafter "town") received a written objection from him within four business days, the town would disclose the requested records.

 

6. It is found that by letter to the Administrator, dated May 10, 1991, Sevetz indicated that he objected to the disclosure of his personnel records and provided the town with a completed objection form.

 

7. At the hearing, the complainant indicated that the documents she would like to inspect are Sevetz's: application for police officer; references; resume or resume information; and background investigations, if any were conducted by the SPD prior to making its decision to hire Sevetz.

 

8.       It is concluded that the requested records are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S.

 

9. At the hearing, Sevetz agreed to provide the complainant with a copy of his application for the position of police officer filed with the SPD.

 

10. At the request of the Commission, the respondents submitted for in camera inspection, the remaining undisclosed documents that fall within the ambit of the complainant's request.

 

11. It is found that there are a total of six documents not provided to the complainant and submitted by the respondents for in camera review on September 12, 1991:

 

(a) Handwritten notations on the last page of respondent Sevetz's application for police officer (in camera document #91-128-1);

 

(b) A psychologist's letter to the SPD Chief of Police dated April 10, 1978 (in camera document #91-128-2);

 

Docket #FIC 91-128 Page 3

 

(c) A letter from the SPD Chief of Police to Sevetz pertaining to the scheduling of the psychologist's

appointment, dated March 21, 1978 (in camera document #91-128-3);

 

(d) A memorandum entitled "Check on Candidate Peter Sevetz, Jr.", dated June 8, 1977 (in camera

document #91-128-4);

 

(e) A fingerprint record submitted to the State Bureau of Identification and returned to the SPD, dated July 7, 1977; (in camera document #91-128-5); and

 

(f) A memorandum from the SPD Chief of Police to the Simsbury First Selectman concerning Sevetz and another candidate, dated June 8, 1977 (in camera document #91-128-6).

 

12. It is found that the respondents do not object to disclosure of in camera document #91-128-6, except to the extent that it refers to another candidate.

 

13. The respondents maintain that the remaining requested records are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(2), G.S., which permits the nondisclosure of "personnel or medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy."

 

14. The respondents further maintain that some of the information, if disclosed, could be embarrassing to Sevetz and that the Supreme Court's decision in Chairman v. Freedom of Information Commission, 217 Conn. 193 (1990), supports their contention in paragraph 13, above, that Sevetz has a reasonable expectation that the information contained in the requested records will remain confidential.

 

15. It is found that the information requested by the complainant is information contained in Sevetz' personnel file.

 

16. After a thorough review of the documents described in paragraph 11, above, it is found that in camera document #'s 91-128-1 and 91-128-4 contain personal information that might be embarrassing to Sevetz and that disclosure would invade Sevetz's right to personal privacy.

 

17. It is found that in camera document #91-128-2 contains information relating to a psychologist's diagnosis of Sevetz.

 

Docket #FIC 91-128 Page 4

 

 

18. Section 1-19(a), G.S., states in relevant part:

 

"Except as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute, all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency ... shall be public records..." [Emphasis added.]

 

19. Section 1-19(b)(10), G.S., provides for the nondisclosure of "records, tax returns, reports and statements exempted by federal law or state statutes ..." [Emphasis added.]

 

20. Section 52-146c(b), G.S., provides that "all communications [between a psychologist and a patient] shall be privileged and a psychologist shall not disclose any such communications unless the person or his authorized representative consents to waive the privilege and allow

such disclosure."

 

21. Section 52-146c(a)(3), G.S., defines communications as "all oral and written communications and records thereof relating to the diagnosis and treatment of a person..."

 

22. It is concluded that the provisions of 52-146c, G.S., in totality, provide a broad grant of confidentiality for all communications between patients and psychologists.

 

23. It is further concluded therefore that pursuant to 1-19(a) and 1-19(b)(10), G.S., the respondents did not violate the Freedom of Information Act by not disclosing in camera document #91-128-2 to the complainant.

 

24. It is found that in camera documents #'s 91-128-3 and 91-128-5 do not contain any personal information or information that would otherwise be embarrassing to Sevetz, that consequently, their disclosure would not constitute an invasion of Sevetz' right to personal privacy and it is therefore concluded that the respondents violated 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to provide the complainant with access to such records.

 

25. It is found that there are other documents related to Sevetz's employment application, that were submitted by the respondents along with the in camera submission, but that may not have been provided to the complainant at the hearing when Sevetz agreed to provide the complainant with a copy of his application for the position of police officer.

 

Docket #FIC 91-128 Page 5

 

26. The Commission in its discretion declines to impose a civil penalty upon the custodian of the requested records.

 

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 access to in camera documents #91-128-3 and #91-128-5.

 

2. The respondents may redact lines 5 through 7 and the portion of line 10 of in camera document #91-128-6 that identifies another candidate and shall forthwith provide the complainant with access to the remaining portions of the document.

 

3. The respondents shall forthwith provide the complainant with access to those other employment application records described in paragraph 25, of the findings above, that have not already been provided to the complainant.

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 13, 1992.

 

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission

 

Docket #FIC91-128 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:

MS. JOAN COE

26 Whitcomb Drive

Simsbury, CT 06070

 

SUSAN A. QUINN, ESQ.

Tyler, Cooper & Alcorn

CityPlace - 35th Floor

Hartford, CT 06110

 

 

Karen J.Haggett

Clerk of the Commission