In the Matter of a Complaint by                        Final Decision


West Hartford News,




            against              Docket #FIC 88-87


Superintendent of Schools of the Town of West Hartford,


                        Respondent                  March 10, 1993


            The above-captioned matter was originally heard as a contested case on May 2, 1988, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  At the May 2nd hearing Parker Simonds was made a party in the case.


            On July 26, 1988, Mr. Simonds appealed the Commission's final decision dated July 19, 1988.


            On March 26, 1991, the Superior Court dismissed the Simonds appeal.  On April 15, 1991, Mr. Simonds appealed that judgment to the Appellate Court.  By agreement of the parties the appeal to the Appellate Court was withdrawn so that the Commission could, on remand, conduct an in camera review of the records at issue.  In this regard, a motion to reopen the judgment was granted by the Superior Court along with the stipulation that the court retain jurisdiction while the matter was pending before the Commission.


            On November 2, 1992, the parties again appeared before the undersigned hearing officer for the limited purpose of presenting testimony, exhibits and argument on the in camera submission of the records at issue.  At this hearing, the respondent superintendent did not take a position for or against disclosure of the subject records and attended merely to provide information.


            After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found:


1.       The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.


Docket #FIC 88-87                             Page Two


            2.  By letter dated January 14, 1988, the complainant requested access to:


            a.         records maintained by the respondent that relate to charges or allegations of misconduct against Hall High School girls varsity soccer coach, Parker Simonds,


            b.         complaints against Mr. Simonds,


            c.         findings of the independent investigator who looked into charges of misconduct against Mr. Simonds,


            d.         correspondence relating to any allegations of misconduct by Mr. Simonds,


            e.         and records of any probation periods to which Mr. Simonds was subject which, as explained, resulted from charges of misconduct.


            3.  By letters dated January 20 and 29, 1988, the respondent denied the complainant's request, claiming 10-151c, G.S., exempted records of teacher performance and evaluations from disclosure.


            4.  By letter dated February 9, 1988, the complainant clarified its request, explaining that it did not want records of teacher performance and evaluation.


            5.  By letter dated February 23, 1988, the respondent again denied the complainant's request.


            6.  By letter dated March 8, 1988, and filed with the Commission on March 14, 1988, the complainant appealed to the Commission.


            7.  At the May 2nd hearing, the hearing officer denied Mr. Simonds' motion to dismiss the case.


            8.  Also at the first hearing, the complainant withdrew its request for the records described in paragraph 2c, above.  The complainant further clarified that it does not seek records of routine administrative correspondence between Mr. Simonds and the West Hartford Board of Education, however, administrative correspondence related to the allegations of misconduct against Mr. Simonds is within the scope of the request.


Docket #FIC 88-87                             Page Three


            9.  It is found that a group of students and several parents filed complaints with West Hartford school officials (hereinafter "school officials"), about the allegedly inappropriate behavior of Mr. Simonds towards female students.


            10.  It is found that action was taken by school officials to investigate and follow up on the complaints against Mr. Simonds.


            11.  The records at issue were submitted to the Commission for in camera review on February 10, 1992, and have been designated as in camera (hereinafter "IC documents"), 88-87-1 through 88-87-40, inclusive.


            12.  At the first hearing, the respondent and Mr. Simonds claimed that the records in question were exempt from disclosure under 10-151c, G.S., as records of teacher performance and evaluation, and 1-19(b)(2), G.S., as personnel files whose disclosure would constitute an invasion of personal privacy.


            13.  It is found that the requested records are public records as defined in 1-18a(d), G.S.


            14.  It is found that the records at issue are records of complaints and of how complaints were handled, and, therefore, are not records of teacher performance or evaluation within the meaning of 10-151c, G.S.


            15.  It is concluded, therefore, that the requested records are not exempt from disclosure under 10-151c, G.S.


            16.  Mr. Simonds appeared at the November 2, 1992 hearing to further argue that 1-19(b)(2), G.S., and Chairman v. FOIC, 217 Conn. 193 (1991), preclude disclosure of the records at issue.


            17.  Specifically, Mr. Simonds claims that disclosure of the requested records would cause him embarrassment because the records contain candid and critical statements and observations regarding his conduct as a physical education teacher in the West Hartford public school system.


            18.  In addition, Mr. Simonds claims that his recollection is that school officials gave him assurances of confidentiality regarding the contents of his personnel file.


            19.  It is found that, although not proven to have been given, any alleged assurances or promises of confidentiality by school officials to Mr. Simonds neither provides an exemption, nor establishes, in itself, the reasonableness of an expectation of privacy.


Docket #FIC 88-87                             Page Four


            20.  Moreover, in the absence of explicit legal authority for the confidentiality of any information contained in the records at issue, it is further found that any such assurances are contrary to public policy.


            21.  It is found that the requested records are included in Mr. Simonds' personnel file.


            22.  It is also found, however, that neither the respondent nor Mr. Simonds proved that the records at issue are maintained solely as a personnel file within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.


            23.  In fact, it is found that many of the documents submitted for in camera review contain a notation that the document should be copied to others.


            24.  But even if the records at issue constitute a personnel file for the purposes of this case, it is found that the records do not contain any personal, medical or other information about Mr. Simonds that provide a basis for a reasonable expectation of privacy in light of Mr. Simonds' position as public school teacher, whose salary is paid by public funds.


            25.  Specifically, it is found that the records do not contain any information about the intimate details of Mr. Simonds' life or capabilities.  Rather, they generally consist of correspondence related to allegations of misconduct and subsequent actions taken by school officials.  They document allegations and concerns expressed by West Hartford parents over a period of approximately four years regarding behavior by Mr. Simonds towards his female students.


            26.  Without disclosing the contents of the in camera documents, it is found that if the complaints against Mr. Simonds were found to have merit, 1-19(b)(2), G.S., was not intended to shield the misconduct of public officials, particularly public school teachers entrusted with the important task of providing for the intellectual and physical well-being of a community's children.  If, however, Mr. Simonds was exonerated of any wrongdoing, then documentation of that fact should cause him no embarrassment.


Docket #FIC 88-87                             Page Five


            27.  It is found that neither the respondent nor Mr. Simonds proved that the records at issue were prepared with an expectation that their contents would remain confidential.


            28.  It is therefore found that disclosure of the records at issue, as more particularly described in paragraphs 29(a) through 29(f), inclusive, of the findings below, would not constitute an invasion of the personal privacy of the subject coach, who voluntarily chose to serve the public and be paid with public funds and consequently, they are not exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(2), G.S.


            29.  It is also found that a reasonable person would not expect that disclosure of the following six records, which directly relate to Mr. Simonds' judgment and conduct as a public school athletic teacher, and fitness to remain a public servant, would remain confidential:


            a.  IC document 88-87-11, disclose all on page 1

                        following the heading "Statements" (February 21,

                        1983 memorandum from James Moore, Director

                        of Personnel Services to Parker Simonds);


            b.  IC document 88-87-12, entire document

                        (page 2 of the February 21, 1983 Moore



            c.  IC document 88-87-13, entire document

                        (March 11, 1983 memorandum from James Moore,

                        Director of Personnel Services to Parker Simonds);


            d.  IC document 88-87-28, from the first sentence of

                        the first paragraph through the end of the

                        page (two-paged letter dated September 10, 1987

                        from James Moore, Director of Personnel Services

                        to Parker Simonds);


            e.  IC 88-87-29 document, all of page 2 (September

                        10, 1987 Moore letter); and


            f.  IC 88-87-39 document, from the second

                        paragraph through the end of the letter

                        (January 12, 1988 letter from West Hartford

                        Schools Superintendent Lloyd Calvert to

                        Parker Simonds).


Docket #FIC 88-87                             Page Six


            30.  It is found that the identities of those students who complained about Mr. Simonds are exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(11), G.S., unless those students, or their parents or guardians if under eighteen years of age, have waived their right to confidentiality.


            31.  Thus it is concluded that the respondent violated 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., by denying the complainant's request for access to the records identified in paragraph 29(a) through (f), inclusive, of the findings, above.


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


            1.  The respondent shall forthwith provide the complainants with copies of the in camera records more fully described in paragraphs 29(a) through (f), inclusive, of the findings above.  The respondent may redact, mask or otherwise conceal information that identifies persons other than Mr. Simonds, to the extent that such identities are not already publicly known.


Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 10, 1993.



                                    Debra L. Rembowski

                                    Acting Clerk of the Commission


Docket #FIC 88-87                             Page Seven





West Hartford News

20 Isham Road

P.O. Box 2

West Hartford, CT 06107


Superintendent of Schools of the Town of West Hartford

c/o Atty. Marjorie S. Wilder

Corporation Counsel

50 South Main Street

West Hartford, CT 06107


Parker Simonds

c/o Atty. Ronald Cordilico

21 Oak Street

Suite 500

Hartford, CT 06106



                                    Debra L. Rembowski

                                    Acting Clerk of the Commission