FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Kathryn Kranhold and The Hartford Courant,
against Docket #FIC 94-77
Director, New Haven Health Department,
Respondent February 8, 1995
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on August 9, 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. It is found that the complainants by letter dated December 8, 1993 requested that the respondent provide them with access to inspect and/or copy the referral sheets of individuals who have sought anonymous AIDS testing and counselling during the period 1988 through 1993, to determine the organizations to which referrals were made, the number of referrals made to HOPE Ministries, when they were made, whether the individuals referred were male, female, caucasian or African-American and which counselor(s) made the referrals.
3. Having failed to receive access to the referral sheets (hereinafter "requested records"), the complainants by letter dated and filed with the Commission on January 3, 1994 and supplemented by letter dated March 16, 1994 and filed with the Commission on March 17, 1994, appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by denying them access to the requested records.
4. It is found that the respondent never responded to the complainants' request.
5. Section 1-21i(b), G.S., states in pertinent part:
[The FOI] commission shall, after due notice to the parties, hear and decide the appeal within one year after the filing of the notice of appeal ....
Docket #FIC 94-77 Page 2
6. It is concluded that the Commission lacks jurisdiction in this case since the appeal was not decided within one year after the filing of the notice of appeal, and therefore the case must be dismissed.
7. However, in an attempt to avoid the filing of a new complaint in this case, the Commission in its discretion issues the following opinion based upon its findings and the entire record in this case.
8. At the hearing in this matter, the respondent contended that the requested records are medical records and are therefore exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
9. Subsequent to the hearing in this matter, the respondent filed its brief setting forth an additional argument that the requested records are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(10) and 19a-581 et seq. G.S.
10. It is found that the requested records are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.
11. Section 1-19(b)(2), G.S., allows for the non-disclosure of "medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy."
12. It is found that the requested records are maintained by the respondent in medical files and therefore constitute medical files information within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
13. It is found that in addition to the information requested by the complainants, the referral sheets contain other information such as the anonymous tester's number and medical history, usually indicating whether there is a history of drug use and what symptoms if any, were being experienced.
14. The respondent testified that besides the referral sheets, he does not maintain any separate records that contain the information requested by the complainants.
15. Pursuant to the teachings of Perkins v. FOI Commission, 228 Conn. 158 (1994) and Kureczka v. FOI Commission, 228 Conn. 271 (1994), the invasion of personal privacy exemption only precludes disclosure when the information sought does not pertain to legitimate matters of public interest and is highly offensive to a reasonable person.
Docket #FIC 94-77 Page 3
16. It is found that the disclosure of the requested information which is contained on anonymous referral sheets would not be highly offensive to the reasonable person as the identity of the test subject is not known, and the information contained therin could not reasonably identify a particular individual.
17. It is also found that the information sought by the complainants constitutes raw data information and pertains to legitimate public health issues.
18. It is therefore concluded that the requested records are not exempt pursuant to the provisions of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
19. With respect to the respondent's second argument 19a-581(7), G.S., defines a "protected individual" as a person who has been counseled regarding HIV infection, is the subject of an HIV-related test or who has been diagnosed as having HIV infection, AIDS or HIV-related illness.
20. Section 19a-581(8), G.S., defines "confidential HIV-related information" as any information pertaining to the protected individual concerning whether a person has been counseled regarding HIV infection, has been the subject of an HIV-related test, or has HIV infection, HIV-related illness or AIDS.
21. Section 19a-583(a) states that "no person who obtains confidential HIV-related information may disclose or be compelled to disclose such information, except ..." in certain limited situations.
22. It is found that the records at issue are records of "protected individuals" as that term is defined in 19a-581(7), G.S.
23. It is also found that the requested records constitute "confidential HIV-related information" as that term is defined in 19a-581(8), G.S.
24. It is therefore concluded that the requested records are not disclosable pursuant to 19a-583, G.S.
25. It is further concluded that the respondent did not violate the provisions of 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., when it failed to provide the complainants with access to the requested records.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The complaint is dismissed.
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2. The Commission notes that the very broad language of 19a-581(7) and (8), G.S., precludes its ordering disclosure of the raw data information of anonymous testers which was requested in this case. The Commission notes its concern when as in this case, raw data or statistical information regarding anonymous AIDS testing is barred from disclosure where no reasonable risk of identifying an anonymous tester exists.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of February 8, 1995.
Debra L. Rembowski
Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 94-77 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:
KATHRYN KRANHOLD and THE HARTFORD COURANT
373 East Main Street
Middletown, CT 06457
DIRECTOR, NEW HAVEN HEALTH DEPARTMENT
c/o Aileen M. Bell, Esq.
Office of the Corporation Counsel
770 Chapel Street
New Haven, CT 06510
Debra L. Rembowski
Clerk of the Commission