FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Jim Sweeney and Cablevision News 12,
against Docket #FIC 91-331
Personnel Director of Human Resources, Fairfield Hills Mental Hospital,
Respondent October 14, 1992
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 2, 1992, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. The original caption for this case, Jim Sweeney and Cablevision News 12 v. Director of Human Resources, Fairfield Hills Mental Hospital has been amended to correctly identify the respondent in this matter.
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 October 9, 1991, the complainants requested copies of documentation concerning members of the respondent's medical staff who were disciplined as a result of the July 19, 1991 death of Mark Ruzzoli (hereinafter "disciplinary records").
3. By letter dated October 16, 1991, and filed with the Commission on October 18, 1991, the complainants alleged a denial of access to the disciplinary records.
4. It is found that the requested records are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S.
5. It is found that disciplinary records exist for one physician and one nurse (hereinafter "employees") in connection with Mr. Ruzzoli's death.
Docket #FIC 91-331 Page 2
6. The disciplinary records were submitted to the Commission for in camera inspection on April 9, 1992, and consist of ten pages.
7. It is found that the disciplinary records at issue are maintained as part of the personnel files of the two employees.
8. It is found that the disciplinary records contain candid and critical evaluations of the performances of the two employees by peers and/or supervisory personnel, including frank comments by the physician about his performance relative to the death of Mr. Ruzzoli. At the time the statements were provided, no promises of confidentiality were given.
9. The respondent claims that the names and identities of the employees disciplined, as well as the contents of the disciplinary records were exempt from disclosure as an invasion of personal privacy in accordance with the provisions of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
10. No evidence was presented to support the respondent's claim that the names of the two employees disciplined, are exempt from disclosure.
11. Accordingly, it is concluded that the names and identities of the employees disciplined are not exempt from disclosure and the respondent's failure to provide that information constitutes a violation of 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.
12. The respondent also contends that disclosure of disciplinary records would necessarily inhibit the respondent's investigatory process of circumstances such as those that led to the death of Mark Ruzzoli.
13. The respondent contends further that the employees were notified of the records request and objected to disclosure.
14. It is found that on September 18, 1991, the employee nurse objected to the release of "[a]dministrative investigative interview notes...to the [complainants]."
15. It is found that two of the eight documents submitted for in camera review concern the employee nurse.
16. It is found that the nurse's written objection, limited to the documents specified therein, is one of the two in camera documents.
Docket #FIC 91-331 Page 3
17. It is found, however, that "administrative investigative interview notes" concerning the employee nurse are not among the documents submitted by the respondent for in camera inspection.
18. It is concluded that the records at issue concerning the employee nurse are outside of the scope of her objection.
19. It is found that on October 9, 1991, the employee physician objected to disclosure of the "disciplinary report" concerning him.
20. The employees who are the subject of the disciplinary records at issue did not appear at the hearing.
21. It is found that the respondent failed to prove that the employees entertained a reasonable expectation of privacy in the information contained in the disciplinary records, as set forth in Chairman v. Freedom of Information Commission, 217 Conn. 193 (1991).
22. Section 1-19(b)(2), G.S., was not intended to shield the misconduct or substandard performance of either public officials or employees in the performance of those duties directly related to the conduct of the public's business --particularly where the circumstances of an individual's death are at issue.
23. Accordingly, under the facts of this particular case, the respondent has failed to prove the applicability of any exemption to disclosure of the disciplinary records at issue.
24. It is therefore concluded that the respondent's failure to provide the complainants with copies of the disciplinary information requested is a violation of 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
Docket #FIC 91-331 Page 4
1. The respondent shall forthwith provide the complainants with those documents identified in paragraphs 2, 5, 6 and 7 of the findings, above.
2. In complying with paragraph 1 of the order, above, the respondent may redact, delete or mask the identities and personally identifiable information of any third-parties who provided statements.
3. In complying with paragraph 1 of the order, above, the respondent shall redact, delete or mask information related to Mr. Ruzzoli's medical condition and related medical information.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of October 14, 1992.
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 91-331 Page 5
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:
Cablevision News 12
28 Cross Street
Norwalk, CT 06851
Personnel Director of Human Resources
Fairfield Hills Mental Hospital
c/o Assistant Attorney General Thomas J. Ring
55 Elm Street
Hartford, CT 06106
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission