FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
against Docket #FIC 93-174
Meriden Department of Health and Human Services, Meriden Department of Human Rights, Meriden Police Department, Meriden Personnel Department, Meriden Community Action Agency
Respondent November 10, 1993
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 24, 1993, at which time the complainant and all respondents, except the Meriden Community Action Agency (hereinafter, "MCAA"), appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.
The Notice of Hearing and Order to Show Cause in this case was served upon all respondents in care of Meriden Staff Attorney Christopher P. Hankins. Until the date of the hearing in this matter, Mr. Hankins failed to notify the respondent MCAA of the hearing and did not apprise the Commission that he was not representing the MCAA. For reasons of administrative economy, and over the objection of the appearing respondents, the undersigned Hearing Officer determined to go forward with the hearing as to all respondents represented by Attorney Hankins, but also determined that the hearing would not address the complaint as against the MCAA in any way that would prejudice it.
By order of the undersigned Hearing Officer, the hearing in this matter was reopened on October 12, 1993 after sending notice to all the parties, including the MCAA, by certified mail, at which time the plaintiff alone appeared. Attorney Hankins notified counsel for the Commission that he spoke with counsel for MCAA before the reopened hearing, apprised him of the reopened hearing and was told that counsel for MCAA did not intend to appear. Counsel for the MCAA did not contact the Commission prior to the reopened hearing requesting a continuance.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:
Docket #FIC 93-174 Page 2
1. The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.
2. By letter dated May 27, 1993, the complainant requested access to inspect all portions of the personnel file of, and all complaints, documents and correspondence pertaining to any complaint concerning, one Gregory Haskins, Executive Director of the MCAA.
3. By letter dated June 1, 1993, all appearing respondents denied the complainant's May 27, 1993 request, claiming that such records are exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(4), G.S.
4. It is also found that by letter dated June 9, 1993, the MCAA denied the complainant's May 27, 1993 request, also claiming that such records are exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(4), G.S.
5. By letter dated June 16, 1993, and filed with the Commission on June 18, 1993, the complainant appealed to the Commission from the denial of her May 27, 1993 request for access to public records.
6. It is found that on or about May 20, 1993, the complainant filed notice of its intent to sue the City of Meriden and the MCAA, among others, pursuant to 7-465 and 7-101a, G.S.
7. It is also found that on or about May 20, 1993, the complainant instituted a complaint with the State Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (hereinafter, "CHRO") for sexual harassment against Mr. Haskins and, among others, against the City of Meriden and the MCAA with respect to their acquiescence in Mr. Haskins' conduct. As of the date of the hearing in the complaint before this Commission, the CHRO complaint was still pending.
8. The respondents assert that the requested records are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(4), G.S., which provides that a public agency need not disclose:
records pertaining to strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims or pending litigation to which the public agency is a party until such litigation or claim has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled.
9. It is found that the respondents are agencies and departments of the City of Meriden which is a party against which the complainant has brought claims, as defined in 1-18a(g), G.S.
Docket #FIC 93-174 Page 3
10. It is also found that the respondent MCAA is a party against which the complainant has brought claims, as defined in 1-18a(g), G.S.
11. It is further found that the complainant's claims against all the respondents are currently pending within the meaning of 1-18a(g) and 1-19(b)(4), G.S.
12. The complainant nonetheless asserts that the 1-19(b)(4), G.S., exemption to disclosure does not apply here because the requested records do not pertain to strategy or negotiations with respect to the subject pending claims.
13. It is found that although the respondents are public agencies against which there are pending claims within the meaning of 1-19(b)(4), G.S., the respondents failed to prove that the records at issue constitute records that pertain to either "strategy" or "negotiations" with respect to such pending claims, within the meaning of the 1-19(b)(4), G.S., exemption to disclosure.
14. It is therefore concluded that the respondents violated 1-15, G.S., by failing to provide the complainant with access to inspect the records identified 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. Each respondent, with the exception of the MCAA, shall forthwith provide the complainant with access to inspect and/or copy all portions of the personnel file of, and all complaints, documents and correspondence pertaining to any complaint concerning, one Gregory Haskins, Executive Director of the MCAA, which are within such respondent's custody or possession.
2. The hearing is reopened with respect to the MCAA.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of November 10, 1993.
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 93-174 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:
c/o Ralph E. Wilson, Esq.
137 South Main Street
Middletown, CT 06457
Meriden Department of Health and Human Services,
Meriden Department of Human Rights, Meriden Police
Department, Meriden Personnel Department and Meriden
Community Action Agency
c/o Meriden Community Action Agency
178 State Street
Meriden, CT 06450-5695
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission