FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Robert M. Anastasio,
against Docket #FIC 93-335
State of Connecticut, Department of Children and Families,
Respondent April 13, 1994
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 22, 1994, 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 December 15, 1993, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that his December 10, 1993 request to inspect certain telephone records had been denied, and requesting that a civil penalty be imposed against the respondent.
3. It is found that the complainant visited the respondent's training academy on December 10, 1993, after first calling the business manager and indicating that he wished to inspect the facility's long-distance telephone records.
4. It is found that the respondent, on the advice of an assistant attorney general, required the complainant to put his request in writing before it would make any records available for him to inspect, which the complainant declined to do at that time.
5. It is found that the respondent's assistant personnel administrator, who had previously made records available to the complainant in the context of an ongoing personnel matter, telephoned the complainant on December 27, 1993 and indicated that the records were available for inspection.
6. It is found that the complainant made a written request to inspect the telephone records and other records on December 29, 1993, and was given access to all the records on that date.
Docket #FIC 93-335 Page 2
7. It is found that the requested long-distance telephone records are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.
8. The respondent concedes that the telephone records are not exempt from disclosure, but that under the circumstances of this case it was reasonable for the respondent not to disclose the records until December 29, 1993.
9. Specifically, the respondent maintains that it has a reasonable policy of "stop and think" in response to requests to inspect documents, based on the broad confidentiality provisions contained in 17a-28(b) and (a)(5), G.S.
10. Section 17a-28(b), G.S., provides in relevant part:
Notwithstanding the provisions of section 1-19, 1-19a or 1-19b, records maintained by the department [of children and families] shall be confidential and shall not be disclosed.
11. Section 17a-28(a)(5), G.S., in turn provides in relevant part:
"Records" means information created or obtained in connection with the department's child protection activities or activities related to a child while in the care or custody of the department ....
12. The respondent also maintains that confidential telephone numbers of its clients might be gleaned from the training academy's telephone records.
13. It is found that it is the respondent's policy that case workers are to use a pay phone, and not the state telephone lines, if they find it necessary to call clients from the training academy.
14. It is also found that the respondent did not review the requested telephone records before they were provided to the complainant.
15. It is also found that the respondent provided all of the requested telephone records with no information deleted.
16. It is found that the respondent actually conditioned the complainant's access to the records on the complainant's making a written request, and not on the respondent's having an opportunity to review the records for confidentiality.
17. With respect to a request to inspect public records, 1-19(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:
Docket #FIC 93-335 Page 3
Except as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute, all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency, whether or not such records are required by any law or by any rule or regulation, 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.
18. With respect to a request for copies of public records, 1-15(a), G.S., provides in relevant part: "Any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record."
19. It is concluded that nothing in 1-19(a), G.S., requires that a request to inspect public records be reduced to writing.
20. It is therefore concluded that the respondent violated 1-19(a), G.S., by imposing an improper precondition to the complainant's right to inspect the requested records.
21. It is also concluded that the respondent failed to provide prompt access to the requested telephone records, in violation of 1-19(a), G.S.
22. With respect to the complainant's request for a civil penalty, the respondent maintains that the delay in providing access to the requested records was reasonable based upon the possible confidentiality of the records.
23. It is found that the respondent's claim regarding confidentiality is not supported by the facts of this case.
24. The respondent also maintains that, although there is no statutory requirement that the complainant channel his requests through the assistant personnel administrator, whom he had dealt with in the past, the request would likely have been expeditiously complied with had he done so.
25. It is found that the availability of a more cooperative public official does not constitute reasonable grounds for the denial of access to a public record.
26. It is also found, however, that much of the delay and difficulty the complainant had in obtaining access to the requested records was caused by his decision not to make the request through the assistant personnel administrator.
27. Therefore, the Commission in its discretion declines to impose a civil penalty against the respondent.
Docket #FIC 93-335 Page 4
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the entire record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. Henceforth the respondent shall strictly comply with the requirements of 1-19(a), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of April 13, 1994.
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 93-335 Page 5
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. Robert M. Anastasio
263 Greene Street
New Haven, CT 06511
State of Connecticut, Department of Children and Families
c/o Rachel M. Baird, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
110 Sherman Street
Hartford, CT 06106-2294
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission