FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Philip S. Robertson,
against Docket #FIC 93-76
State of Connecticut Department of Mental Retardation,
Respondent September 8, 1993
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 7, 1993, at which time the complainant 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 of complaint filed February 17, 1993, the complaint appealed to the Commission, alleging that his January 22, 1993 request for certain records had been denied.
3. It is found that the commissioner of the respondent wrote an editorial in an issue of "Direct to Families," published by the respondent and mailed to families and friends of clients of the respondent.
4. It is found that the complainant, a state senator, took exception to the editorial, and requested an opportunity to respond in print, which the respondent denied.
5. It is found that the complainant then by letter dated January 22, 1993 requested from the respondent a copy of the mailing list of "Direct to Families" so that he could respond directly to those who had received the issue containing the editorial.
6. It is found that the requested mailing list is a public record within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.
7. It is found that the respondent provided, in computerized format, a mailing list of about 200 names and addresses, from which the names and addresses of about 8,000 client family members or friends had been omitted.
Docket #FIC 93-76 Page 2
8. The respondent maintains that the mailing list is a personnel or medical file within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S., the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of privacy.
9. It is found that the mailing list consists of names and addresses of family and associates of clients that are culled from the clients' individual files.
10. The respondent maintains that its clients are subject to societal stigmatizing.
11. It is found, however, that the respondent failed to prove that family members and friends of the respondent's clients would themselves reasonably be subject to embarrassment if so identified.
12. The respondent offered as evidence the case of an individual, unnamed woman who sought to hide the fact that she had a relative who was a client of the respondent.
13. It is found, however, that the respondent failed to prove that a reasonable person would be embarassed by being identified as a family member or associate of a client of the respondent.
14. It is concluded that the requested mailing list is not a personnel or medical file within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
15. The respondent further maintains that Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies 19-570-5 creates a reasonable expectation that the mailing list will remain confidential.
16. The respondent also maintains that 17a-238(e), G.S., also creates a reasonable expectation that the mailing list will remain confidential.
17. Section 17a-238(e), G.S., provides in pertinent part that:
The commissioner of mental retardation shall ensure that each person placed or treated under his direction in any public or private facility is afforded the following rights and privileges: ... (10) the right to have the complete record maintained by the department of mental retardation concerning such person released for review, inspection and copying to such person's attorney or other legal representative notwithstanding any provision of subsection (g) of section 4-193 or section 4-194 ....
Docket #FIC 93-76 Page 3
18. It is concluded that 17a-238, G.S., in its entirety consists of an enumeration of the rights of persons under the supervision of the commissioner of mental retardation.
19. It is also concluded that 17a-238(e)(10), G.S., in granting to a client of the respondent a right to inspect and copy his or her complete file, does not by its terms limit public access to a mailing list which has been compiled from thousands of files.
20. Section 19-570-5 of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies provides that individual client records maintained by the superintendents of the respective regional centers and training schools are confidential and will only be released to the individual client or his/her representative in accordance with certain specified procedures.
21. It is found, however, that the requested mailing list is not an individual client record within the meaning of 19-570-5 of the Regulations.
22. The complainant maintains that there is no statute making confidential the identities of clients of the respondent.
23. It is concluded that, particularly in the absence of a statute making the identities of clients of the respondent confidential, it is not reasonable to construe 17a-238, G.S., or 19-570-5 of the Regulations as prohibiting the disclosure of a mailing list of family and associates of clients of the respondent.
24. It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-15 and 1-19, G.S., by failing to provide a copy of the requested mailing list.
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 either provide the complainant with a copy of the mailing list described in paragraph 5 of the findings, above, or, in the alternative, mail at its expense correspondence provided to it by the complainant to those persons on such mailing list.
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 93-76 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:
Philip S. Robertson
c/o Atty. Morgan J. O'Brien
Legislative Office Building
Hartford, CT 06106
State of Connecticut, Department of Mental Retardation
c/o Asst. Atty. Gen. David P. Welsh
110 Sherman Street
Hartford, CT 06105
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission