FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Martin Conroy and Helen Conroy,
against Docket #FIC 92-347
Chief of Police, Wethersfield Police Department,
Respondent June 23, 1993
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 30, 1993, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.
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, 1992, the respondent informed the complainants of the outcome of an internal investigation conducted by his department concerning the complainants' civilian complaint alleging misconduct on the part of certain Wethersfield police officers who handled disputes between the complainants and their neighbor during April and May 1992. The respondent indicated that the complainants could obtain a full copy of the internal investigation report (hereinafter "report") by submitting a check in the amount of $11.66.
3. Under cover letter to the respondent dated September 25, 1992 (hereinafter "September letter"), the complainants submitted a check in the amount of $11.66 and indicated that it was enclosed for the report.
4. By letter also dated September 25, 1992, the complainants mailed notices of their intent to sue the Town of Wethersfield as a result of the incidents described in paragraph 2, above, which notices were received by the town clerk on September 30, 1992.
Docket #FIC 92-347 Page 2
5. By letter dated October 14, 1992 the respondent's department acknowledged receipt of the complainants' September letter but indicated that there seemed to be a question concerning what records were involved.
6. Subsequently, by letter dated October 26, 1992, the complainants stated that they would appeal to the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Commission if they did not receive the requested report within four days of the respondent's receipt of that letter.
7. By letter dated November 3, 1992, the respondent informed the complainants that because the Town of Wethersfield had received notice of the complainants' intent to bring actions against it, the report was therefore exempt from disclosure under the FOI Act.
8. It is found that as of the date of hearing in this matter, the complainants have not filed any court action as a result of the incidents described in paragraph 2, above.
9. It is also found, however, that on or about November 9, 1992, each complainant filed a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (hereinafter "CHRO") alleging that certain Wethersfield police officers employed discriminatory practices with regard to their handling of the incidents described in paragraph 2, above.
10. From the denial of their request for a copy of the report, the complainants appealed to the Commission by letters filed November 10 and 23, 1992 respectively.
11. It is concluded that the requested report is a public record within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S.
12. The respondent maintains that the report was not provided upon receipt of the complainants' September letter because the lieutenant then handling the matter was uncertain whether the complainants had already obtained the report and were enclosing payment for it or were, by such letter, initially requesting a copy of the report.
13. In support of his 1-19(b)(4), G.S., claim of exemption, the respondent maintains that the information contained in the report will likely "influence" his strategy with regard to defending the potential civil rights law suits and that disclosure would "adversely affect" the town's defense of the CHRO complaints.
Docket #FIC 92-347 Page 3
14. Section 1-19(b)(4), G.S., permits the nondisclosure of "records pertaining to strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims or pending litigation to which the public agency is a party...."
15. It is found that at the time of the complainants' September request, the complainants' mailing on the same date of the notices of intent to sue the Town of Wethersfield constituted pending claims within the meaning of 1-19(b)(4), G.S.
16. It is also found however, that the report was not prepared in connection with or for the purpose of defending against pending claims or pending litigation; rather, the report was compiled and prepared as a result of the respondent's internal police investigation of alleged misconduct on the part of officers within his department.
17. It is further found that the respondent offered no other evidence in support of the claimed exemption contained in 1-19(b)(4), G.S.
18. It is therefore found that the respondent failed to prove that the report is a record which pertains either to strategy or negotiations with respect to pending claims or pending litigation within the meaning of 1-19(b)(4), G.S.
19. Consequently, it is concluded that the 1-19(b)(4), G.S., exemption does not apply to the subject report in this case; and that as a result the respondent violated the provisions of 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to provide the complainants with a copy of the requested report described in paragraph 2, 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 a copy of the requested report as described in paragraph 2, of the findings above.
2. Henceforth the respondent shall strictly comply with the requirements of 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 23, 1993.
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 92-347 Page 4
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:
Martin Conroy and Helen Conroy
c/o Brian James Conroy, Esq.
18 Main Street
Concord, MA 01742
Chief of Police, Wethersfield Police Department
c/o Ann Lynch, Esq.
Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C.
One State Street
Hartford, CT 06103
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission