FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a complaint FINAL DECISION
Janice C. Beauregard,
against Docket #FIC 1996-303
Katherine McCormick, Health Director,
Hartford Health Department; Richard Colpitts,
Assistant Health Director, Hartford Health
Department; and Patricia Washington,
Personnel Director, City of Hartford,
Respondents December 11, 1996
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 8, 1996, at which time the complainant and the respondents 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of §1-18a(a), G.S.
2. This case stems from the Commission’s final decision in its contested case docket #FIC 1995-422 (hereinafter “FIC 1995-422”).
3. By letter dated August 16, 1996, and postmarked August 19, 1996, the respondent personnel director tendered compliance with the Commission’s order in FIC 1995-422.
4. By letter dated and filed with the Commission on September 20, 1996, the complainant alleges that she did not receive with the respondent personnel director’s tender of compliance Dr. Mark Mitchell’s proposed budget narrative, including the letter of transmittal, for the Hartford Health Department, which was sent to the Hartford City Manager as part of the June 1992 budget process (hereinafter, “budget narrative”). The complainant also seeks in her complaint the imposition of civil penalties against the respondents.
DOCKET # FIC 1996-303 PAGE 2
5. Although there was some question as to whether the budget narrative was subject to the Commission’s order of disclosure in FIC 1995-422, the respondents do not contest that the budget narrative is the subject of this complaint and is indeed subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
6. The respondents contend that they have searched for a copy of the budget narrative, but have been unable to locate it.
7. The complainant contends, on the other hand, that the budget narrative does exist, that the respondents have not searched diligently for it, and have not provided it to her promptly.
8. It is found that the budget narrative contains the proposed plans for the Hartford Health Department for the budget year 1992-1993 and, accordingly, was an important document likely to be reviewed and kept by a number of persons, officials and employees within Hartford city government.
9. It is also found that Dr. Mitchell, the budget narrative’s author, was Hartford’s public health director who, when he subsequently left the directorship, removed all records from his office.
10. It is further found that, although the respondents searched those places where they believed a copy of the budget narrative might be located and inquired of those employees whom they believed might have a copy of that budget narrative, they failed to extend their search and inquiry to all departments and to all relevant persons, including Dr. Mitchell.
11. It is therefore found that the respondents have neither conducted a thorough search nor a prompt one, given the facts of this case.
12. It is therefore concluded that the respondents violated §§1-19(a) and 1-15(a), G.S., by failing to conduct a thorough search for the budget narrative promptly.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The respondent health director shall forthwith send a memorandum to each department head of the City of Hartford, requesting each department head to search his or her department’s records, and to inquire of all his or her employees, to ascertain whether there is an original or a copy of the budget narrative.
DOCKET # FIC 1996-303 PAGE 3
2. The respondent health director shall also forthwith contact Dr. Mark Mitchell, requesting him to search his records to ascertain whether he has the original or a copy of the budget narrative.
3. If, after complying with paragraphs 1 and 2 of this order, above, the respondent health director obtains the original or a copy of the budget narrative, she shall forthwith provide the complainant with a copy thereof, free of charge.
4. If, after complying with paragraphs 1 and 2 of this order, above, the respondent health director cannot obtain the original or a copy of the budget narrative, she shall forthwith execute and provide the Commission with an affidavit setting forth the facts showing that she has complied with paragraphs 1 and 2 of this order, above, and that she has been unable to obtain the original or a copy of the budget narrative.
5. The Commission declines to impose a civil penalty in this case at this time.
6. Based upon the testimony in this case, the Commission is deeply concerned that important public records of the Hartford Health Department might have been removed, in violation of state civil and criminal statutes, by Dr. Mitchell, or others, when Dr. Mitchell left office as Hartford’s health director. If this in fact occurred, the Commission strongly recommends that the respondents health director and personnel director take the necessary steps to regain custody of all such public records and, if appropriate, to refer the matter to the responsible criminal investigatory and prosecutorial authorities. In this regard, the Commission also recommends that these respondents consult with the state public records administrator to determine their responsibilities and duties with respect to the retention, removal and destruction of public records.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of December 11, 1996.
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket # FIC 1996-303 Page 4
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:
Janice C. Beauregard
12 Merrill St., Unit B-3
Hartford, CT 06106
Katherine McCormick, Health Director, Hartford Health Department; Richard Colpitts, Assistant Health Director, Hartford Health Department; and Patricia Washington,
Personnel Director, City of Hartford
c/o Ivan A. Ramos, Esq.
Corporation Counsel’s Office
550 Main Street
Hartford, CT 06103
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission