FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Amy E. Charney,
against Docket #FIC 95-156
James J. Strillacci, Chief of Police, West Hartford Police Department,
Respondent January 24, 1996
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 21, 1995, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.
Subsequent to the hearing on this matter, the respondent filed a written "Request to reopen hearing, to designate the Chief State's Attorney as a party to the appeal, and to permit the participation of Marjorie Dodd," which request is hereby denied. Section 4-177a, G.S.
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 dated March 21, 1995, the complainant requested of the respondent a copy of police report number 94058306 concerning a motor vehicle accident which occurred on December 14, 1994.
3. By letter dated May 5, 1995, the respondent denied the complainant's request.
4. By letter dated May 10, 1995 and filed on May 11, 1995, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by denying her a copy of the requested record.
5. It is found that the requested accident report is a public record within the meaning of to 1-18a(d), G.S.
Docket #FIC 95-156 Page 2
6. The respondent claims that the requested accident report is exempt from disclosure under Gifford v. FOIC, 227 Conn. 641 (1993), and 1-20b and 1-19b(b), G.S.
7. The complainant claims that the requested accident report is not exempt under the FOI Act and is also disclosable under 7-282, G.S.
8. It is found that the complainant has initiated a wrongful death suit against the subject of the requested accident report.
9. Section 1-19b(b), G.S., provides in relevant part:
Nothing in sections 1-15, 1-18a, 1-19 to 1-19b, inclusive, and 1-21 to 1-21k, inclusive, shall be deemed in any manner to . . . limit the rights of litigants, including parties to administrative proceedings, under the laws of discovery of this state. . . .(emphasis added)
10. The Commission takes administrative notice that 1-19b(b), G.S. was amended as a result of the Gifford decision changing the word "affect" to "limit" and, therefore, its provisions are not relevant to this matter.
11. It is further found that the record at issue in this matter is an accident report, not an arrest record as was the record in Gifford.
12. In any event, Section 1-20b, G.S., which was also enacted as a result of the Gifford decision, provides in relevant part:
(a) Notwithstanding any provision of the general statutes to the contrary, and except as otherwise provided in this section, any record of the arrest of any person . . . except a record erased pursuant to Chapter 961a, shall be a public record from the time of such arrest and shall be disclosed in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15 and subsection (a) of section 1-19, except that disclosure of data or information other than that set forth in subdivision (1) of subsection (b) of this section shall be subject to the provisions of subdivision (3) of subsection (b) of section 1-19. . . .
Docket #FIC 95-156 Page 3
(b) For the purposes of this section, "record of the arrest" means (1) the name and address of the person arrested, the date, time and place of the arrest and the offense for which the person was arrested, and (2) at least one of the following, designated by the law enforcement agency: the arrest report, incident report, news release or other similar report of the arrest of a person.
13. Therefore 1-20b, G.S., at a minimum, requires the disclosure of the requested report, except with respect to any matter exempt under 1-19(b)(3), G.S.
14. Section 1-19(b)(3), G.S., provides:
(b) Nothing in sections 1-15, 1-18a, 1-19 to 1-19b, inclusive, and 1-21 to 1-21k, inclusive, shall be construed to require 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 (A) the identity of informants not otherwise known or the identity of witnesses not otherwise known whose safety would be endangered or who would be subject to threat or intimidation if their identity was made known, (B) signed statements of witnesses, (C) information to be used in a prospective law enforcement action if prejudicial to such action, (D) investigatory techniques not otherwise known to the general public, (E) arrest records of a juvenile, which shall also include any investigatory files, concerning the arrest of such juvenile, compiled for law enforcement purposes, (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. . . .
15. It is found that the respondent failed to prove that the requested accident report contains any information exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(3), G.S.
16. The respondent also claims that disclosure of the requested accident report would violate the erasure statutes, specifically 54-56e and 54-142a, G.S., dealing with accelerated rehabilitation.
Docket #FIC 95-156 Page 4
17. It is found that the subject of the requested accident report was arrested and granted accelerated rehabilitation, with her period of probation expiring in January of 1997.
18. It is found that the requested accident report will be subject to erasure upon the expiration of a successfully completed period of accelerated rehabilitation.
19. It is further found that, until the period of accelerated rehabilitation expires, there is no statutory provision for the nondisclosure of the requested accident report. Indeed, even the Statutory Requirements Regarding Maintenance and Dissemination of Criminal Records in Connecticut, published by the Office of the Chief State's Attorney, acknowledges that there is no such exemption. See Section IV, A 1., p. 32 (appended hereto).
20. It is therefore found that the requested accident report is not exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b), 1-19b(b) or 1-20b, G.S.
21. Consequently, it is concluded that the respondent violated 1-19(a) and 1-15(a), G.S., by failing to provide the complainant with a copy of the requested accident report.
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 complainant with a copy of the requested accident report, as more fully described in paragraph 2 of the findings, above.
2. The respondent's arguments regarding the applicability of the erasure statutes demonstrates a lack of understanding of the fundamental public policy of this state which mandates public disclosure of all public records unless specifically exempt by federal law or state statute. See 1-19(a), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of January 24, 1996.
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 95-156 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:
Amy E. Charney
c/o Douglas W. Hammond, Esq.
RisCassi & Davis, P.C.
131 Oak Street
P.o. Box 260550
Hartford, CT 06126-0550
James J. Strillacci, Chief of Police, West Hartford Police Department
c/o Beth Critton, Esq.
Assistant Corporation Counsel
Town of West Hartford
50 South Main Street
West Hartford, CT 06107
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission