FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by

FINAL DECISION

Robert C. Hunt, Jr.,  

Complainant

 

against

Docket #FIC 1996-148

Supervisor, Special Enforcement Unit, Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities,  

Respondent

April 23, 1997

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 15 and November 18, 1996, at which times the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. This matter was consolidated for hearing with contested case docket #FIC 1996-238, Robert C. Hunt, Jr. against Supervisor, Special Enforcement Unit, State of Connecticut, Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

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 April 26, 1996, the complainant, an attorney who represents the town of Avon, requested that the respondent provide him with copies of eighteen categories of records pertaining to a discrimination complaint initiated by the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities ("CHRO") against the town of Avon.

3. Having failed to receive a response from the respondent, by letter dated May 6, 1996, and filed on May 7, 1996, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by denying him a copy of the requested records.

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. Section 1-19(a), G.S., provides in pertinent 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….

Section 1-15(a), G.S., provides in pertinent part:

Any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record….

6. It is found that, the respondent provided the complainant with copies of various records responsive to his request on October 3, October 15, and November 17, 1996 and that the parties stipulated that eleven records remain undisclosed, consisting of the following:

a memoranda from Robert Brothers to Jewel Brown dated August 8, 1994;

a memoranda to file from Tina Chin regarding mediation dated March 27, 1995;

a memoranda to file from Tina Chin regarding telephone call with Carl Schuman dated March 28, 1995;

a memoranda to file from Tina Chin regarding meeting with Louis Martin dated June 6, 1995;

a memoranda to file from Tina Chin regarding mediation sessions dated July 5, 1995;

a memoranda to file regarding conciliation meeting with Robert Hunt and James Wade dated October 3, 1995;

a memoranda to file from Tina Chin regarding telephone call with Carl Schuman dated October 3, 1995;

an undated investigation plan analysis to file;

notes to file regarding review of additional FBI Investigative Reports;

letter dated November 27, 1995 to Tina Chin from Carl Schuman; and

a facsimile transmission dated April 18, 1996 from Tina Chin to Carl Schuman.

 

7. With respect to the remaining undisclosed records, as identified in paragraph 6, above, the respondent maintains that such records are exempt from disclosure because they:

a) consist of "attorney work-product;"

b) do not constitute "evidence" within the meaning of 46a-83(g), G.S., and accordingly are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(a) and 46a-83(g), G.S.; and,

c) pertain to strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims or pending litigation within the meaning of 1-19(b)(4), G.S.

8. It is found that the respondent’s claim identified in paragraph 7a), above, does not state an exemption to the disclosure of public records under the provisions of the FOI Act.

9. With respect to the respondent’s claim identified in paragraph 7b), above, 46a-83(g), G.S., provides:

No [CHRO] commissioner or employee of the commission may disclose, except to the parties or their representatives, what has occurred in the course of such endeavors provided the commission may publish the facts in the case and any complaint which has been dismissed and the terms of conciliation when a complaint has been adjusted. Each party and his representative shall have the right to inspect and copy documents, statements of witnesses and other evidence pertaining to his complaint….[Emphasis added.]

10. It is found that 46a-83(g), G.S., is a statute which supersedes the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

11. It is also found that the complainant is the representative of a party to a CHRO complaint within the meaning of 46a-83(g), G.S.

12. It is further found that the remaining undisclosed records identified in paragraph 6, above, consist of memoranda to the file concerning CHRO’s complaint charging the town of Avon with discrimination and denial of civil rights, as well as memoranda concerning conciliation possibilities, notes concerning mediation meetings, communications with the U.S. Attorney’s office, notes of staff review of files provided by the FBI, and a fax cover sheet and draft of the CHRO final investigative report concerning the CHRO complaint against the town of Avon.

13. It is further found that the remaining undisclosed records do not constitute documents, statements of a witness or other evidence pertaining to the CHRO complaint within the meaning of 46a-83(g), G.S.

14. It is concluded therefore that 46a-83(g), G. S., does not require the respondent to disclose the remaining undisclosed records to the complainant in this case.

15. It is also concluded that the respondent did not violate 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., by refusing to disclose the remaining undisclosed records to the complainant.

16. It is further concluded however, that with respect to the other records responsive to the complainant’s request that were provided to the complainant on October 3, October 15 and November 17, 1996, the respondent violated 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to provide promptly copies of the requested public records.

17. In view of the conclusions reached in paragraphs 14 and 15, above, it is unnecessary for the Commission to consider the respondent’s claim of exemption under 1-19(b)(4), G.S., identified in paragraph 7c), above.

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

1. Henceforth, the respondent shall strictly comply with the requirements for providing prompt access to copies of non-exempt public records, as set forth in 1-19(a) and 1-15(a), G.S.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of April 23, 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:

Robert C. Hunt, Jr.,
c/o James A. Budinetz, Esq.
Pepe & Hazard
Goodwin Square
Hartford, CT 06103-4303

Supervisor, Special Enforcement Unit, Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities
c/o Philip A. Murphy, Jr., Esq.
Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities
21 Grand Street
Hartford, CT 06106

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1996-148/FD/eal/04301997