FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Rachel Gottlieb and The Hartford Courant,
against Docket #FIC 94-291
State of Connecticut, Department of Public Safety, Division of State Police
Respondent May 24, 1995
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 20, 1995, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. At the hearing, the Indian Mountain School, Christopher Simons and Patricia Simons requested party status. The Hearing Officer granted all three intervenor status pursuant to 4-177a, G.S., and the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies 1-21j-28.
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 by letter dated July 27, 1994, the complainants requested from the respondent access to copies of police reports numbers B92-137901 and B93-035550 (hereinafter "reports"), which concern the respondent's investigation into the alleged sexual abuse of students by two former teachers of the Indian Mountain School.
3. It is found that in their July 27 request, the complainants acknowledged that the names of the alleged victims would be deleted from the reports.
4. It is found that the respondent, by letter dated July 27, 1994 denied the request claiming that the records are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(3)(G), G.S.
5. Having failed to receive access to copies of the reports, the complainants, by letter dated August 11, 1994 and filed with the Commission on August 15, 1994, appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by denying them access to the reports.
Docket #FIC 94-291 Page 2
6. The respondent contends that the reports are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(3)(F), 1-19(b)(3)(G), 1-20c, 17a-28 and 17a-101(g), G.S.
7. Section 1-19(b)(3)(F) and (G), G.S., permit the non-disclosure of:
(3) records of law enforcement agencies not otherwise available to the public which records were compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of crime, if the disclosure of said records would not be in the public interest because it would result in the disclosure of (F) the name and address of the victim of a sexual assault under section 53a-70, 53a-70a, 53a-71, 53a-72a, 53a-72b or 53a-73a, or injury or risk of injury, or impairing of morals under section 53-21, or of an attempt thereof or (G) uncorroborated allegations subject to destruction pursuant to section 1-20c.
8. Section 1-20c, G.S., provides that:
Except for records the retention of which is otherwise controlled by law or regulation, records of law enforcement agencies consisting of uncorroborated allegations that an individual has engaged in criminal activity shall be reviewed by the law enforcement agency one year after the creation of such records. If the existence of the alleged criminal activity cannot be corroborated within ninety days of the commencement of such review, the law enforcement agency shall destroy such records.
9. Sections 17a-28 and 17a-101(g), G.S., provide generally for the confidentiality of the Department of Children and Youth Services ("DCF") records.
10. It is found that during September 1992, the respondent commenced a criminal investigation into allegations of sexual abuse at the Indian Mountain School ("school"), following the receipt of information from DCF, (hereinafter "the investigation").
11. It is found that the respondent compiled the reports in connection with the investigation.
Docket #FIC 94-291 Page 3
12. It is found that the reports contain information received from alleged victims, past and current faculty and staff members of the school (hereinafter "interviewees").
13. It is found that the reports contain similar accounts relayed to the respondent by different interviewees concerning the allegations under investigation.
14. It is found that upon the conclusion of the investigation the respondent determined that there was probable cause that a crime had been committed.
15. It is found that the respondent was then informed by the State's Attorneys Office that the Statute of Limitations for bringing such action had expired.
16. Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition (1990), defines corroborate as "to strengthen, to add weight or credibility to a thing by additional and confirming facts or evidence." Ballentines Law Dictionary, Third Edition (1969) defines corroborate as "to state facts tending to produce confidence in the truth of a statement made by another." Funk & Wagnall New Standard Dictionary of the English Language (1946) defines corroborate as "to give increased support to; make more sure or evident."
17. In light of findings 13 through 16, inclusive, above, it is found that the requested reports contain allegations which were corroborated.
18. It is therefore concluded that the respondent failed to prove that the reports are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(3)(G) and 1-20c, G.S.
19. It is found that the reports contain the names and addresses of the alleged victims of sexual abuse and also contain information concerning child abuse obtained by the respondent from DCF.
20. It is concluded that the names and addresses of the alleged victims of sexual abuse are permissibly exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(3)(F), G.S.
21. It is also concluded that the information contained in the reports which was received from DCF and which concerns child abuse is exempt from disclosure pursuant to 17a-28 and 17a-101(g), G.S.
Docket #FIC 94-291 Page 4
22. 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 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.
23. It is concluded that those portions of the requested reports that neither reveal the identities and addresses of the alleged victims of sexual abuse, nor confidential DCF records, are public records within the meaning of 1-19(a), G.S.
24. In sum, it is concluded that the respondent did not violate the complainants' rights when it failed to provide them with unredacted copies of the requested reports. However, the respondent should have provided the complainants with redacted copies of the requested reports, withholding the identities and addresses of the alleged victims of sexual assault as well as confidential DCF information concerning child abuse.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. Forthwith, the respondent shall provide the complainants with a redacted copy of the requested reports.
2. In complying with paragraph 1 of the order, the respondent shall delete the names and addresses of all alleged victims of sexual abuse, and any information received from DCF which if disclosed would divulge the identities of alleged victims of abuse, children, parents and/or guardians. In addition, the respondent may in its discretion withhold the names and addresses of any informants or witnesses, except the respondent may not withhold the names of any alleged perpetrators.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 24, 1995.
Debra L. Rembowski
Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 94-291 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:
RACHEL GOTTLIEB AND THE HARTFORD COURANT
285 Broad Street
Hartford, CT 06115
STATE OF CONNECTICUT, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, DIVISION OF STATE POLICE
c/o Madeline A. Melchionne, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
110 Sherman Street
Hartford, CT 06105
INDIAN MOUNTAIN SCHOOL
c/o Mark T. Altermatt, Esq.
Halloran & Sage
One Goodwin Square
225 Asylum Street
Hartford, CT 06103
CHRISTOPHER SIMONS AND PATRICIA SIMONS
c/o Robert P. Volpe, Esq.
Howard, Kohn, Sprague & Fitzgerald
237 Buckingham Street
Hartford, CT 06106
Debra L. Rembowski
Clerk of the Commission