FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Edward Burns and Oak Hills Golf Association,
against Docket #FIC 94-94
Norwalk Deputy Corporation Counsel,
Respondent October 26, 1994
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 1, 1994, at which time the complainants 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. On March 4, 1994, the complainants requested from the director of personnel for the City of Norwalk (hereinafter "City") a list of the "addresses of all [C]ity department heads." The director of personnel referred the complainants to the respondent.
3. Thereafter, the complainants requested the list described in paragraph 2, above, from the respondent and at that time agreed to limit their request to a list of the City department heads and the towns wherein they reside, rather than their specific street addresses.
4. On or about March 15, 1994 the respondent provided the complainants with a list of City department heads, which list included the names of the department heads but only revealed the town for those department heads who reside in Norwalk. For all other department heads, the list indicated only that such persons did not reside in Norwalk.
5. By letters filed on March 21 and April 6, 1994, the complainants appealed to the Commission from the respondent's denial of access to the requested town information.
Docket #FIC 94-94 Page 2
6. The respondent contends that disclosure of the requested town information would invade the privacy of the City department heads because public officials do not want to receive letters from citizens at their homes. The respondent further contends, citing Federal Labor Relations Authority v. United States Department of the Navy, 958 F.2d 1490 (9th Cir. 1992), that because the complainants have other means of communicating with the City department heads, they should not be entitled to obtain their home addresses from the respondent.
7. 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...obtain a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15, [G.S.]."
8. It is found that to the extent the respondent has custody or control of records containing the towns wherein City department heads reside, such records constitute public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.
9. Although the respondent did not cite a specific statutory basis for withholding the requested town information, his arguments appear to be based on the exemption set forth in 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
10. Section 1-19(b)(2), G.S., permits the nondisclosure of "personnel, medical and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy.
11. It is found that the respondent failed to prove that the requested town information is contained solely in personnel, medical or similar files within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
12. However, even if the requested town information were contained solely in personnel, medical or similar files within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S., it is found that the respondent failed to prove that address information, which includes the town wherein an individual resides, is not private or indeed, that it is not published in directories available to the public.
13. Further, the respondent failed to prove that any of the city department heads who do not reside in Norwalk have taken significant or extraordinary efforts to exclude their home addresses from the public domain.
14. It is further found that there is a legitimate public interest in knowing the towns wherein public officials reside and that disclosure of such information would not be highly offensive to a reasonable person.
Docket #FIC 94-94 Page 3
15. Consequently, it is concluded that disclosure of the requested town information would not constitute an invasion of personal privacy within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
16. The Federal Labor Relations Authority case cited by the respondent does not control in this matter because it is based on federal statutes, including the Federal Privacy Act, which has no Connecticut counterpart; and it is contrary to long-standing decisions of the Commission and the Connecticut courts.
17. It is further found that there is no statutory exemption to disclosure based on the existence of other methods of communicating with public officials.
18. It is concluded therefore that the respondent violated 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., when he failed to provide the complainants with the requested town information.
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 provide the complainants with a list of, or records containing, the names and corresponding towns of residence for all City department heads.
2. Henceforth the respondent shall strictly comply with the requirements of 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of October 26, 1994.
Debra L. Rembowski
Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 94-94 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:
EDWARD BURNS and OAK HILLS GOLF ASSOCIATION
P.O. Box 506
Norwalk, CT 06856
NORWALK DEPUTY CORPORATION COUNSEL
c/o Jeffry Spahr, Esq.
Department of Law
125 East Avenue
P.O. Box 5125
Norwalk, CT 06856-5125
Debra L. Rembowski
Clerk of the Commission