FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
John Springer and The Bristol Press,
against Docket #FIC 94-160
Chief of Police, Bristol Police Department,
Respondent April 5, 1995
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on January 24, 1995 and March 7, 1995, at which times the complainants and the respondent appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. Officer Michael Case was granted party status at that time.
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 with this Commission on May 18, 1994, the complainants alleged that the respondent violated the provisions of the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by failing to provide access to certain records of complaint and internal investigation against a Bristol police officer.
3. It is found that by letter hand delivered to the respondent on March 15, 1994, the complainants requested access to the following records:
a) the police investigation into a formal complaint made July 3, 1992 by Donna Martin of 21 Divinity St., Bristol, Connecticut that she was sexually assaulted by Officer Michael Case in her home (hereinafter "criminal investigation");
b) the police department's internal investigation of Officer Michael Case's conduct during the early morning hours of July 3, 1992; and
c) the police department's internal investigation of Sgt. Louis Lavender's supervision of Officer Michael Case on July 3, 1992.
4. The records identified in paragraph 3a) - c) are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S.
Docket #FIC 94-160 Page 2
5. It is found that by letter dated April 18, 1994, the respondent denied the complainants' request on the basis that Mr. Case and his attorney object to the release of the internal affairs file requested.
6. It is found that just prior to November 22, 1994, Mr. Case learned of the hearing in this matter that was originally scheduled for that date. His attorney notified this Commission of his objection to going forward at that time without adequate opportunity to prepare Mr. Case's presentation. Accordingly, the hearing officer granted Mr. Case's request for postponement, and the matter was subsequently scheduled for hearing on January 24, 1995.
7. This Commission takes notice that no appearance was ever filed with this Commission on Mr. Case's behalf between November 22, 1994 and January 24, 1995.
8. It is found that by letter dated April 11, 1994, attorney McEleny on behalf of Mr. Case, informed the respondent of Mr. Case's position that the records at issue in this case are "personal" in nature as defined by Connecticut case law, and that he accordingly objects to their disclosure..
9. It is also found that although the certified mailing of notice of the January 24, 1995 hearing was received by the respondent, he failed to notify Mr. Case, whose purported personnel files are at issue in this matter, of the proceedings in compliance with paragraph 5 of the Notice of Hearing and Order to Show Cause in this contested case docket #FIC 94-160.
10. The respondent claims that because at the present time Mr. Case is actually a former employee of the Bristol police department, he is accordingly not required under paragraph 5 of the Notice of Hearing and Order to Show Cause to notify Mr. Case of the pending proceedings.
11. The Commission concludes, however, that the respondent's position set forth in paragraph 10, above, is not reasonable in light of the fact that he does maintain the records at issue as personnel files concerning incidents of conduct by one of the department's on-duty police officers.
12. On March 7, 1995, Mr. Case moved for a new hearing in this matter, which motion was denied.
13. It is found that the criminal investigation records consist of uncorroborated allegations that an individual has engaged in criminal activity and are accordingly subject to destruction pursuant to 1-20c, G.S.
Docket #FIC 94-160 Page 3
14. It is concluded that with respect to the request identified in paragraph 3a), above, the respondent is not in violation of the provisions of the FOI Act under the facts of this case.
15. It is found that the internal affairs investigations files identified in paragraphs 3b) and 3c), above, are personnel or similar files within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
16. It is found that these internal affairs investigations files concern an investigation of Officer Case's actions while on-duty and responding to a call on July 3, 1992.
17. It is also found that Officer Case's employment with the Bristol police department was thereafter terminated at least in part on the basis of the findings in the above-referenced internal affairs investigation.
18. It is also found that although at the time of the hearing into this matter Officer Case was not employed by the Bristol police department, he was actively seeking reinstatement of his former position with the department.
19. Officer Case argues that pursuant to the Perkins v. FOI Commission, 228 Conn. 158 (1993), the internal investigations records are permissibly exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(2), G.S., because they do not pertain to legitimate matters of public concern and their contents are highly offensive to a reasonable person.
20. It is found that the manner in which local police departments investigate allegations concerning the actions of an on-duty officer pertain to legitimate matters of public concern.
21. It is accordingly concluded that this Commission need not address the issue of whether the contents of the records at issue may highly offend the reasonable person.
22. It is accordingly concluded that the respondent violated the provisions of 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to provide to the complainants access to the records identified in paragraphs 3b) and 3c), above.
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 to the complainants access to the records identified in paragraphs 3b) and 3c) of the findings, above.
Docket #FIC 94-160 Page 4
2. Henceforth the respondent shall strictly comply with the provisions of 1-19(a), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of April 5, 1995.
Debra L. Rembowski
Clerk of the Commission
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:
JOHN SPRINGER AND THE BRISTOL PRESS
310 South Street
Bristol, CT 06010
CHIEF OF POLICE, BRISTOL POLICE DEPARTMENT
c/o Dean B. Kilbourne, Esq.
Assistant Corporation Counsel
111 North Main Street
Bristol, CT 06010
OFFICER MICHAEL CASE
c/o Stephen F. McEleney, Esq.
McEleney & McGrail
363 Main Street
Hartford, CT 06106
Debra L. Rembowski
Clerk of the Commission