FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

FINAL DECISION
Docket #FIC 1996-159
January 22, 1997
In the Matter of a Complaint by Carolyn Moreau and The Hartford Courant, Complainants
against
Police Chief, Southington Police Department, Respondent

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 17, 1996, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. Docket #FIC 1996-124, Donald H. Schiller, Michael Kelley and The Record-Journal Publishing Company against Police Chief, Town of Southington Police Department and Southington Police Department, was consolidated with the above-captioned case for purposes of hearing.

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 26, 1995, the complainants requested that the respondent provide them with access to review (and the option to then copy) the complete personnel file of Officer Eric Brown, with the exception of documents relating exclusively to medical information.

3. By letter dated April 16, 1996, the respondent denied the complainants’ request on the grounds that their request lacks specificity, that the documents requested pertain to strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims challenging the propriety of the termination of the employment of Officer Brown, and that the disclosure of the records would legally constitute an invasion of privacy.

4. It is found that the requested records are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.

5. By letter dated April 30, 1996, and filed with the Commission on May 2, 1996, the complainants appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by denying their access to inspect and copy the requested records.

6. It is found that Eric Brown and his union representative were notified of the hearing into this matter prior to such hearing by the respondent chief, but neither appeared.

7. Section 1-19(a), G.S., in relevant part states: [e]xcept as otherwise provided by 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 … or to receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15."

8. Section 1-15(a), G.S., in relevant part states [a]ny person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record.

9. With respect to the allegations contained in paragraph 5, above, the respondent contends that:

the complainants’ request is not a request for specific documents and the FOI Act does not provide a right to conduct such expeditions;

the records are exempt pursuant to 1-19(b)(4), G.S., due to a pending union grievance concerning Eric Brown;

the subject of the records objected to disclosure thereby obligating the respondent under 1-20a(b), G.S., to withhold them pending an order from this Commission; and,

the internal investigation reports contain the names of confidential witnesses and investigative techniques within the meaning of 1-19(b)(3), G.S.

10. The respondent submitted the records at issue for in camera inspection. Along with the in camera submission for which the respondent claims exemption as outlined in paragraph 8, above, the respondent submitted 27 records for which they claim no exemption.

11. With respect to the respondent’s claim identified in paragraph 9a., above, it is found that the complainants’ records request is specific and that it was understood by the respondent.

12. It is found that with respect to the respondent’s claim identified in paragraph 9b., above, 1-19(b)(4), G.S., provides an exemption for the disclosure of records pertaining to strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims or pending litigation to which the public agency is a party until such litigation or claim has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled.

13. It is found that the pending union grievance identified in paragraph 9b, above, constitutes a claim within the meaning of 1-19(b)(4), G.S.

14. However, it is found that the records at issue do not pertain to strategy or negotiations with respect to the pending grievance within the meaning of 1-19(b)(4), G.S.

15. It is therefore concluded that the records at issue are not exempt from disclosure pursuant to the provisions of 1-19(b)(4), G.S.

16. With respect to the respondent’s claim identified in paragraph 9c, above, it is found that the records at issue constitute personnel medical or similar files within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S., which provides for the exemption of disclosure of personnel or medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy.

17. It is found that with the exception of fifteen records identified in paragraph 18, below, the remainder of the records at issue pertain to legitimate matters of public concern and their disclosure would not be highly offensive to a reasonable person under the standards set forth in Perkins v. FOI Commission, 228 Conn. 158 (1993).

18. It is concluded that disclosure of the fifteen medical records examined in camera would constitute an invasion of personal privacy within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S., and Perkins, supra.

19. It is concluded that disclosure of the remaining records other than those identified in paragraph 18, above, would not constitute an invasion of personal privacy within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S., and Perkins, supra., and are therefore not exempt pursuant thereto.

20. With respect to the respondent’s claim identified in paragraph 9d., above, it is found that those portions of the records examined in camera that do not name confidential witnesses or specifically identify investigative techniques in those records that were compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of a crime are not exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(3), G.S.

21. It is also found, however, that to the extent the records at issue contain confidential witness names and specifically identify investigative techniques in those records that were compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of a crime (such as police reports), those portions of the records at issue are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(3), G.S.

22. It is concluded that with respect to the respondent’s non-disclosure of the 27 records identified in paragraph 10, above, to the complainants, the respondent is in violation of 1-19(a), G.S.

23. It is also concluded that by failing to provide the complainants with access to inspect or copy the requested records identified in paragraph 2, above, with the exception of those records specifically identified in paragraph 18, above, and those portions described in paragraph 21, above, the respondents violated 1-19(a) and 1-15(a), G.S.

24. In their brief to this Commission, the complainants requested the imposition of civil penalties against the respondent.

25. In its discretion this Commission declines to issue civil penalties against the respondent under the facts of this case.

The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:

1. The respondents shall forthwith provide the complainants with a copy of the requested records, more fully described in paragraph 2 of the findings, above, with the exception of those records specifically described in paragraph 18 of the findings, above.

2. In complying with the paragraph 1 of the order, above, the respondents may redact from those records compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of a crime which contain specific investigative techniques not otherwise known or the names of confidential witnesses.

3. Henceforth, the respondents shall strictly comply with the provisions of 1-19(a) and 1-15(a), G.S.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of January 22, 1997.

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting 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:

Carolyn Moreau and The Hartford Courant
40 South Street
New Britain, CT 06051

Police Chief, Southington Police Department
c/o Frederick L. Dorsey, Esq.
Siegel O’Connor, Schiff & Zangari
1781 Orange Street
New Haven, CT 06510

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1996-159/FD/eal/01291997