FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
against Docket #FIC 92-346
Chief of Police, Newington Police Department,
Respondent October 13, 1993
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 28, 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 an undated letter, the complainant requested of the respondent access to inspect various records including the personnel records of Brian Gallagher, an employee of the respondent.
3. By letter dated and sent by first class U. S. mail on Thursday October 8, 1992, the respondent advised the complainant that the records he sought were being made available.
4. The Commission finds that it is more probable than not that the respondent's letter, described in paragraph 3, above, would not have been received by the complainant prior to Saturday October 10, 1992.
5. After receiving the letter described in paragraphs 3 and 4, above, the complainant visited the respondent's office and was provided access to inspect all requested records except the personnel records of Gallagher.
6. By letter postmarked November 9, 1992, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information Act by denying him access to inspect Gallagher's personnel records.
7. It is found that the complainant was denied access to inspect Gallagher's personnel records sometime after receiving
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the respondent's October 8, 1992 letter, on or after Saturday October 10, 1992.
8. It is therefore concluded that the Commission has jurisdiction over the complaint in this case pursuant to 1-21i(b), G.S.
9. It is found that Gallagher objected to the disclosure of his personnel records on the grounds that disclosure would constitute an invasion of his personal privacy by divulging personal information that could possibly jeopardize the safety of both himself and his family.
10. Section 1-19(a), G.S., provides 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 and every person shall have the right to inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours or to receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15.
11. Section 1-19(b)(2), G.S., provides in relevant part that nothing in the Freedom of Information Act requires disclosure of "personnel or medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy."
12. It is found that personnel records maintained by the respondent consist of records pertaining to background checks, letters of recommendation, personnel evaluations, citizen complaints and records referring to medical files.
13. It is found that the records described in paragraph 12, above, fall within the scope of the complainant's request for personnel records.
14. It is concluded that the requested records are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S.
15. At the hearing in this matter, the complainant indicated that he is not seeking access to any personal information pertaining to Gallagher's address, telephone number, medical history or information pertaining to Gallagher's family.
16. With respect to Gallagher's evaluation records and records referring to medical files, it is found that these constitute personnel file and medical file information respectively, within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
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17. It is also found that disclosure of such evaluation
records and records referring to medical files under the particular facts of this case would constitute an invasion of Gallagher's personal privacy within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
18. It is therefore concluded that the respondent did not violate the complainant's rights by failing to provide access to Gallagher's evaluation records and records referring to medical files.
19. With respect to records of citizen complaints it is found that such records do not constitute personnel, medical or similiar files information within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S. Rather, they are records of allegations concerning police conduct or misconduct in the course of official police activities.
20. With respect to records of background checks and letters of recommendation, it is found that the respondent merely offered Gallagher's objection and general concern for confidentiality, but failed to prove his claim of exemption under 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
21. It is therefore found that because of the respondent's failure of proof in this case, the Commission cannot discern whether any legally cognizable privacy interest would be compromised by disclosure of the subject records.
22. Consequently, it is concluded that the respondent violated the provisions of 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to provide the complainant with prompt access to inspect records of citizen complaints, background checks and letters of recommendation.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The complaint is hereby dismissed with respect to the request to inspect records of personnel evaluations and records referring to medical files.
2. The respondent shall forthwith provide the complainant with access to inspect all other records responsive to his request.
3. In complying with paragraph 2 of the order, the respondent may redact any information not requested by the complainant as described in paragraph 15, of the findings, above.
4. Henceforth the respondent shall strictly comply with
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the provisions of 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of October 13, 1993.
Acting Clerk of the Commission
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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:
Mr. John DeRay
1078 New Britain Avenue
West Hartford, CT 06110
CHIEF OF POLICE, NEWINGTON POLICE DEPARTMENT
c/o Frank R. Borowy, Esq.
66 Cedar Street
Newington, CT 06111
Acting Clerk of the Commission