FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

FINAL DECISION
Docket #FIC 1996-297
June 11, 1997

In the Matter of a Complaint by Karen Florin and The Day, Complainants
against
East Lyme Board of Education, Respondent

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on January 8, 1997, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. At the hearing on this matter, the East Lyme Teachers’ Association ("ELTA") requested and was granted party status.

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. It is found that by both an oral request to the superintendent for the East Lyme Public Schools, and a written request to the respondent on July 16, 1996, the complainants requested a copy of the grievance "to be discussed by the [respondent] on July 16, 1996."

3. It is found that the superintendent received the complainants’ written request on July 23, 1996, and on behalf of the respondent notified the complainants by letter dated July 25, 1996 that the respondent board could not comply with the request at that time because the requested grievance was protected from disclosure under the "collective bargaining provisions of Connecticut General Statutes."

4. By letter of complaint dated July 29, 1996, and filed with the Commission via facsimile transmission on July 30, 1996, the complainants alleged that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by failing to comply with their requests for a copy of the grievance.

5. At the hearing on this matter, the respondent provided the complainants with a redacted copy of the requested grievance so that the document provided contained only the grievant’s statement.

6. The respondent contends that under Article VI of the operative collective bargaining agreement between the respondent and the ELTA, a grievance is simply the grievant’s statement. They therefore redacted the other portions of the so-called "Grievance Procedure Form."

7. It is found that the record at issue is "a grievance procedure form," which in addition to the grievant’s statement, contains four other sections entitled: level one response, or principal’s statement; level two response or superintendent’s statement; level three response or respondent’s statement; and level four response or ELTA consideration of appeal to an arbitration panel.

8. It is also found that the entire subject grievance procedure form, as completed at the time of the complainants’ request, is the record requested by the complainant because it was the subject of the discussion by the respondent on July 16, 1996.

9. It is further found that at the time of the complainants’ request, the subject grievance procedure form contained the grievant’s statement and the level one response or principal’s statement.

10. It is further found that the requested grievance is a public record within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.

11. Section 1-19(a), G.S., in relevant part provides "[e]xcept as otherwise provided by . . . state statute, . . . every person shall have the right to . . . receive a copy of . . . [public] records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15."

12. The respondent claims that the requested records are exempt from public disclosure under 1-19(b)(9), G.S., which provides that an agency need not disclose "records, reports and statements of strategy or negotiations with respect to collective bargaining."

13. In particular, the respondent contends that the requested grievance is exempt under 1-19(b)(9), G.S., because (a) it is a record of negotiation with respect to collective bargaining by virtue of the fact that the grievant proposed an outcome in settlement of the complaint; and (b) disclosure of the subject grievance at the time of the complainants’ record request would have been premature because disclosure could have compromised the integrity of the grievance process.

14. In Bloomfield Education Association v. Frahm, 35 Conn. App.384 (1994), cert. denied 231 Conn. 926 (1994), the Court determined that a grievance filed under a collective bargaining agreement does not constitute a record, report or statement of strategy or negotiations with respect to collective bargaining, within the meaning of 1-19(b)(9), G.S.

15. It is found that the requested grievance in this case does not constitute negotiations with respect to collective bargaining within the meaning of 1-19(b)(9), G.S.

16. It is therefore concluded that the requested grievance is not exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(9), G.S.

17. It is also found that the respondent failed to prove that disclosure of the subject grievance at the time of the complainants’ record request would have compromised the integrity of the grievance process and that in any event, the respondent’s contention in this regard by itself does not constitute an exemption to public disclosure of the requested grievance under 1-19(a), G.S.

18. It is therefore concluded that the respondent violated 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to promptly provide a copy of the requested grievance to the complainants.

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 complainants with an unredacted copy of the requested grievance as more fully described in paragraphs 2, 7, 8 and 9 of the findings, above.

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

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 11, 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:

Karen Florin and The Day
PO Box 1231
New London, CT 06320-1231

East Lyme Board of Education
c/o Richard D. O’Connor, Esq.
Siegel, O’Connor, Schiff & Zangari, PC
370 Asylum Street
Hartford, CT 06103

Ronald Cordilico, Esq.
Connecticut Education Association
Capitol Place, Suite 500
21 Oak Street
Hartford, CT 06106

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC 1996-297/FD/eal/06231997