FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
Docket #FIC 1996-551
August 27, 1997
In the Matter of a Complaint by Judith A. Amato, Complainant
Executive Director, New Britain Housing Authority; and New Britain Housing Authority, Respondents
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 20, 1997, 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 Section 1-18a(a), G.S.
2. By letters dated September 3 and September 4, 1996, the complainant requested that the respondent executive director provide her with a copy of the personnel files of Ramon Serrano, Anita Adams and Joseph Cardillo, except for files detailing the reasons for medical absences (the "records").
3. By letters dated October 20, 1996, the respondent executive director denied the complainants request on the basis that Mr. Serrano, Ms. Adams and Mr. Cardillo each filed an objection, pursuant to § 1-20a, G.S., on the ground that release of the records would be "an invasion of my privacy."
4. By letter dated October 28, 1996, and filed on October 31, 1996, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act by denying her request for the records.
5. In her complaint, the complainant also raised the question of whether a discussion of the New Britain Common Council Leadership Council was a meeting of a public agency, but the issue was not pursued at the hearing on this matter.
6. It is found that the records, which were submitted for in camera inspection, are public records within the meaning of § § 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.
7. 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, whether or not such records are required by any law or by any rule or regulation, shall be public records and every person shall have the right to receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15.
8. Section 1-15(a), G.S., in turn, provides in pertinent part that:
(a)ny person applying in writing shall receive, promptly, upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record.
9. However, § 1-19(b)(2), G.S., provides that a public agency need not disclose "personnel or medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy".
10. In Perkins v. Freedom of Information Commission, 228 Conn. 158, 175 (1993), the Supreme Court set forth the test for the exemption contained in § 1-19(b)(2), G.S. The claimant must first establish that the files in question are personnel, medical or similar files. Second, the claimant must show that disclosure of the records would constitute an invasion of personal privacy. In determining whether disclosure would constitute an invasion of personal privacy, the claimant must establish both of two elements: first, that the information sought does not pertain to legitimate matters of public concern, and second, that such information is highly offensive to a reasonable person.
11. It is found that the records constitute personnel files within the meaning of § 1-19(b)(2), G.S.12. It is also concluded that, with the exception of the records listed at paragraph 13, below, the information contained in the records does pertain to legitimate matters of public concern and is not highly offensive to a reasonable person. In fact, the records focus on routine personnel matters of the very sort which Perkins finds to be subject to disclosure.
13. It is further found, however, that the following records do not pertain to legitimate matters of public concern and do contain information that is highly offensive to a reasonable person:
a. with reference to the personnel records of Anita Adams, in camera record #s 96-551-8, 96-551-9, 96-551-13, 96-551-16, 96-551-21, 96-551-29, 96-551-32, 96-551-40, 96-551-44, 96-551-46, 96-551-47, 96-551-48, and 96-551-50;
b. with reference to the personnel records of Ramon Serrano, in camera record #s 96-551-10, 96-551-11, 96-551-16, 96-551-20, 96-551-33, 96-551-35, 96-551-60, 96-551-68, 96-551-69, 96-551-72, and 96-551-79.
14. Consequently, it is concluded that the records, with the exceptions described at paragraph 13, are not exempt from disclosure under § 1-19(b)(2), G.S., and are subject to mandatory disclosure pursuant to § § 1-19(a) and 1-15(a), G.S.
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 furnish the complainant with copies of the records, with the exceptions described at paragraph 13 of the findings, above.
2. In complying with paragraph 1 of the order, above, the respondents may also redact any social security numbers found within the requested records.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of August 27, 1997.
Dolores E. Tarnowski
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:
Judith A. Amato
2134 Stanley Street
New Britain, CT. 06053
Executive Director, New Britain Housing Authority; and New
Britain Housing Authority
c/o Rudolph Arnold and Raul A. Rodriguez
Arnold & Associates
80 Cedar Street
Hartford, CT. 06106
Dolores E. Tarnowski
Clerk of the Commission