FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Nancy J. LaPointe,
against Docket #FIC 93-213
State of Connecticut Department of Human Resources,
Respondent June 22, 1994
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 12, 1993 and January 19, 1994, at which times the complainant and the respondent appeared 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 named respondent, the Department of Human Resources, was merged with the Department of Social Services effective July 1, 1993. Accordingly, the respondent shall hereafter be referred to as the Department of Social Services ("DSS").
2. The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.
3. By letter of complaint filed with this Commission on August 8, 1993, the complainant alleged that the respondent violated the provisions of the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by excluding the public from hearings conducted by the respondent on July 13 and 14, 1993.
4. It is found that on July 13 and 14, 1993, the respondent excluded the public from hearings it conducted concerning the license revocation of a family day care provider.
5. The respondent claims that the executive sessions were proper pursuant to 1-18a(e)(5), 1-19(b)(10), and 17a-101(g), G.S.
6. The respondent also noted that this Commission has upheld the broad confidentiality protections afforded to information relating to allegations of child abuse in contested case docket numbers FIC 92-12, FIC 88-9, FIC 85-47, FIC 84-80 and FIC 77-186.
Docket #FIC 93-213 Page 2
7. The complainant claims that many of the issues discussed behind closed doors on July 13 and 14, 1993, relate to issues other than child abuse, including general issues concerning the procedures to be followed.
8. It is found that pursuant to the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, 42 U.S.C. 5106, et seq., in order to receive federal grants for child abuse and neglect programs, the State of Connecticut must "provide for methods to preserve the confidentiality of all records in order to protect the rights of the child and of the child's parents or guardians...", 42 U.S.C. 5106a(b)(4).
9. It is found that the federal regulations implementing the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, provide:
(i) Confidentiality. (1) The state must provide by statute that all records concerning reports and reports of child abuse and neglect are confidential and that their unauthorized disclosure is a criminal offense. 45 CFR 1340.14(i)(1).
10. It is found that in accordance with the federal law mandates, the State of Connecticut has adopted legislation to ensure confidentiality of information pertaining to allegations of child abuse.
11. Section 17a-101(g), G.S., provides:
The information contained in [Department of Children and Youth Services ("DCYS")] reports and any other information relative to child abuse, wherever located, shall be confidential subject to such regulations governing their use and access as shall conform to the requirements of federal law or regulations." (Emphasis added).
12. It is concluded that the statutes set forth in paragraphs 9 through 11, above, constitute a broad grant of confidentiality with respect to information pertaining to allegations of child abuse.
13. On November 9, 1993, the respondent submitted to this Commission for in camera inspection transcripts of the July 13 and 14, 1993 hearings at issue.
14. It is found that in addition to statements relating to child neglect or abuse, the following matters were discussed in
Docket #FIC 93-213 Page 3
the issuance of subpoenas;
discussion on the admissability of hearsay;
arguments concerning access to copies of confidential records by the attorney for the daycare provider for purposes of cross-examination;
qualifications of witnesses; and
general investigative procedures.
15. It is concluded that portions of the executive sessions at issue related to allegations of child neglect or abuse and were properly convened in executive session pursuant to 1-18a(e)(5), 1-19(b)(10), and 17a-101(g), G.S.
16. It is also concluded that portions of the executive sessions at issue, specifically those topics in this case identified in paragraph 14, above, were separable from those issues of child abuse and neglect, and do not in and of themselves fall within the executive session provisions as identified in paragraph 15, above. Accordingly, such portions of the executive sessions at issue were conducted in violation of 1-18a(e)(5), G.S., under the specific facts of this case.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint.
1. Henceforth the respondent shall conduct those portions of its hearings concerning general procedural matters in open session. This Commission recognizes that the respondent is better positioned than this Commission to determine in what exact ways it can implement procedures to achieve this goal and therefore refrains from mandating that evidence or motions be taken in any particular order or imposing any other standards upon the respondent that may be better resolved by its own staff and counsel.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 22, 1994.
Debra L. Rembowski
Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 93-213 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:
Nancy J. LaPointe
c/o David K. Jaffe, Esq.
Eisenberg, Anderson, Michalik & Lynch
136 West Main Street
P.O. Box 2950
New Britain, CT 06050-2950
State of Connecticut, Department of Human Resources
c/o Nyle K. Davey, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
55 Elm Street
P.O. Box 120
Hartford, CT 06141-0120
Debra L. Rembowski
Clerk of the Commission