FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

FINAL DECISION
Docket #FIC 1996-535
June 11, 1997

In the Matter of a Complaint by Daniel J. Filer, Complainant
against
David Larson, Superintendent of Schools, Middletown Public Schools, Respondent

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 6, 1997, at which time the complainant and the respondent 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 respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

2. By letter to the respondent dated September 16, 1996, the complainant requested a copy of specified records, which included Shipman and Goodwin’s legal bills for August 1996. In his letter the complainant advised the respondent that it was unnecessary to redact any reference to his child since that information would not be confidential to him.

3. Under cover letter dated September 19, 1996, the respondent provided the complainant with copies of the requested records with the names, initials or references to students redacted, including references to the complainant’s child. In his letter, however, the respondent did acknowledge that "item #46 on the August 15, 1996, bill [did refer to the complainant’s] child."

4. By letter to the respondent dated October 8, 1996, the complainant requested a copy of the following legal bills:

a) all such bills relating to his child for the months of May and June 1996; and

b) Shipman and Goodwin’s legal bills for the months of March and April 1996.

5. Under cover letter dated October 15, 1996, the respondent provided the complainant with copies of the requested legal bills with the names, initials or references to students redacted, including references to the complainant’s child, but again acknowledged that on each of the bills provided "item #46" referred to the complainant’s child.

6. By letter of complaint dated and filed with the Commission on October 17, 1996, the complainant alleged that the respondent failed to "appropriately respond" to his September 16, 1996 and October 8, 1996 requests, since there was no need to redact information pertaining to his child prior to disclosing the requested records. The complainant acknowledged that such redaction was necessary with respect to the requested records concerning other students in order to protect their confidentiality. The complainant also requested the imposition of a civil penalty against the respondent.

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

8. At the hearing on this matter the respondent provided the complainant with copies of the requested records without redacting the information pertaining to the complainant’s child.

9. Section 1-15(a), G.S., in relevant part provides that:

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

10. Section 1-19(b)(11), G.S., in relevant part provides that:

[n]othing in sections 1-15 . . . shall be construed to require disclosure of [the] names or addresses of students enrolled in any public school or college without the consent of each student whose name or address is to be disclosed who is eighteen years of age or older and a parent or guardian of each such student who is younger than eighteen years of age….

11. It is found that: the complainant’s child who is the subject of the legal bills at issue is younger than eighteen years of age; the respondent knows that the complainant is the parent of the child; and that the complainant has consented to the unredacted disclosure to him of the requested records pertaining to his child.

12. It is therefore found that the 1-19(b)(11), G.S., exemption is not applicable to the complainant with respect to information pertaining to his child.

13. Consequently, it is concluded that the respondent violated 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to promptly provide the complainant with copies of the requested records without redacting the information pertaining to the complainant’s child.

14. With respect to the imposition of a civil penalty, the respondent contends that he promptly complied with the complainant’s records requests, and that the references to item #46 in his cover letters, as described in paragraphs 3 and 5, above, adequately identified the requested records pertaining to his child.

15. It is found that in the past, and as recently as January 1996, the respondent has provided the complainant with copies of records, including legal bills, without redacting the information pertaining to the complainant’s child.

16. It is therefore found that the respondent’s failure to promptly provide the complainant with the requested records, without redacting the information pertaining to his child, as requested by the complainant, was without reasonable grounds.

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 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:

Daniel J. Filer
27 Magnolia Avenue
Middletown, CT 06457

David Larson, Superintendent of Schools, Middletown Public Schools
c/o Christine L. Chinni, Esq.
Shipman & Goodwin, LLP
One American Row
Hartford, CT 06103

__________________________
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC 1996-535/FD/eal/06231997