FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
John S. Roach and Guilford Police Retirees Association,
against Docket #FIC 94-279
Town of Guilford,
Respondent August 9, 1995
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 30, 1995, 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. By letter of complaint filed August 15, 1994, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent had denied their request for disclosure of:
a. sheets showing the calculation of retirement pay of Guilford police officers, and
b. payroll, check registers or any other record reflecting the amounts paid to retired Guilford police officers.
3. It is found that the complainants are seeking information concerning the rights and benefits of retirees.
4. It is found that the complainants were informed by letter dated June 21, 1994 from the Guilford town attorney that the administrative assistant to the first selectman was the custodian of the single-page documents relating to the calculation of retirement pay, and that the town's personnel files typically contained information from hiring through retirement.
5. It is found that the complainants by letter dated July 16, 1994 requested from the administrative assistant copies of a document calculating retirement benefits, known as "Form 1" or
Docket #FIC 94-279 Page 2
"Town of Guilford Police Retirement Fund Calculation and Certification of Pension Benefits" for each of 20 named retired individuals.
6. It is found that the complainants, by a separate letter also dated July 16, 1994, asked the administrative assistant for an opportunity to inspect and copy the payrolls for retired Town of Guilford police officers.
7. It is found that the administrative assistant by letter dated July 21, 1994 replied that she believed that disclosure of Form 1 (except for the complainant Roach's own Form 1, which she provided to him) would constitute an invasion of the retirees' privacy, and that she had sent letters to each of the concerned retirees asking whether they objected to disclosure of the information.
8. It is also found that the administrative assistant by letter dated July 22, 1994 denied the complainants' request for the town payrolls for the retired employees, on the grounds that no such records existed since the retirees were no longer on the town payrolls and the town did not administer the payroll for the retirees.
9. It is found that the complainants by letter dated July 28, 1994 repeated their request for payroll information, this time in the form of a request to examine and copy either an original or any copy of a check register maintained by the town that showed all payments made to each previously named retiree since the date of retirement to the present.
10. It is found that the administrative assistant by a form letter dated August 4, 1994 replied that the request was being processed, but that the request was not specific.
11. It is found that the administrative assistant under cover of letter dated August 17, 1994 provided copies of the Form 1 for the eight retired officers who had consented to disclosure, and copies of objections to disclosure from four retirees. She also indicated that she was sending a second notice to the remaining retired officers who had not responded.
12. It is found that the administrative assistant under cover of a letter dated September 20, 1994 sent the complainants two additional copies of the Form 1, and two more objections to disclosure.
13. It is found that the administrative assistant under cover of a letter dated February 28, 1995 sent the complainants redacted copies of a document known as the "Bank of Boston Daily Check Recap" for the eleven retirees that had consented to the release of the information.
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14. It is found that the information redacted from the Check Recap that was not requested by the complainants is not at issue in this case.
15. It is found that another retiree consented to disclosure of the requested information on March 3, 1995, and the corresponding Form 1 concerning him was provided to the complainants.
16. It is found that the administrative assistant under cover of letter dated March 22, 1995 sent the complainants a copy of another objection to disclosure, and copies of the Form 1 for the two retirees who had not responded to her notice to them of the complainants' request.
17. It is found that the complainants ultimately received copies of the Form 1 and information on the Check Recap document for all of the retirees who had either consented or failed to respond to the notice of the complainants' request, and no documents concerning the retirees who had objected.
18. It is found that the Form 1 is a public record within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.
19. The respondent maintains that there are no "payroll" records concerning the retirees, since they are no longer on the town payroll but have retired.
20. It is found, however, that the complainants' request for payroll records for retirees was reasonably understandable as a request for records concerning benefit stipends regularly paid to the retirees.
21. The respondent also maintains that it does not administer the benefits paid to the retirees; that the benefits are paid by a private bank, not the town; and that the town therefore does not have custody or control over the records of the amounts of benefits paid to retirees.
22. It is found, however, that the daily check recap is a document in the respondent's custody that is responsive to the complainant's request.
23. It is also found that the daily check recap is a public record within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.
24. The complainants maintain that the information they received was not provided promptly, and that they are additionally entitled to the information concerning the retirees who objected to disclosure.
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25. With respect to the timeliness issue, 1-20a(b), G.S., provides in relevant part:
Whenever a public agency receives a request to inspect or copy records contained in any of its employees' personnel or medical files and similar files and the agency reasonably believes that the disclosure of such records would legally constitute an invasion of privacy, the agency shall immediately notify in writing (1) each employee concerned, provided such notice shall not be required to be in writing where impractical due to the large number of employees concerned and (2) the collective bargaining representative, if any, of each employee concerned. Nothing herein shall require an agency to withhold from disclosure the contents of personnel or medical files and similar files when it does not reasonably believe that such disclosure would legally constitute an invasion of personal privacy.
26. Section 1-20a(c), G.S., in turn provides in relevant part:
A public agency which has provided notice under subsection (b) of this section shall disclose the records requested unless it receives a written objection from the employee concerned or the employee's collective bargaining representative, if any, within seven business days from the receipt by the employee or such collective bargaining representative of the notice or, if there is no evidence of receipt of written notice, not later than nine business days from the date the notice is actually mailed, sent, posted or otherwise given. ... Upon the filing of an objection as provided in this subsection, the agency shall not disclose the requested records unless ordered to do so by the freedom of information commission pursuant to section 1-21i.
27. It is found that the subject retirees are "employees" within the meaning of 1-20a, G.S.
28. It is found that the respondent did not provide information concerning the retirees who had not responded until approximately eight months after it had mailed notice of the complainants' request.
29. It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-20a(c), G.S., by failing to provide the information concerning the retirees who had not filed objections until eight months after it had mailed notice of the complainants' request.
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30. With respect to those retirees who filed objections to disclosure, the respondent maintains that disclosure of the benefit amounts and calculation sheets would constitute an invasion of personal privacy within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
31. Section 1-19(b)(2), G.S., provides that nothing in the FOI Act requires disclosure of personnel, medical or similar files, the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy.
32. It is found that the requested records are personnel or similar files within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
33. It is also found that the requested records are not medical files within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
34. It is found that there is a legitimate public interest in knowing how public employee retirement benefits are calculated and whether they are calculated fairly.
35. It is further found that the respondent failed to prove that disclosure of the requested records would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.
36. It is therefore concluded that disclosure of the Daily Check Recap and Form 1 for the retirees would not constitute an invasion of personal privacy within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
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 the Daily Check Recap and Form 1 records concerning the retirees who objected to disclosure.
2. The respondent shall henceforth strictly comply with the requirements of 1-15(a), 1-19(a), and 1-20a, G.S.
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Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of August 9, 1995.
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
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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 S. Roach and Guilford Police Retirees Association
c/o Frank R. Grundman, Esq.
Hill, Hill & Grundman
121 Samson Rock Drive
Madison, CT 06443
Town of Guilford
c/o Judith A. Ravel, Esq.
500 East Main Street
Branford, CT 06405
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission