FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

FINAL DECISION
Docket #FIC 1996-574
September 24, 1997

In the Matter of a Complaint by Nancy H. Thompson, Complainant
against
Commissioner, State of Connecticut, Department of Public Safety; and State of Connecticut, Department of Public Safety, Respondents

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 16, 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 Commission takes administrative notice of the final decision in contested case FIC #1996-429, T. Dennie Williams, Leslie Gura and the Hartford Courant v. Commissioner, State of Connecticut Department of Public Safety; and Reports and Records Division, State of Connecticut Department of Public Safety.

2. The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

3. It is found that by letters dated March 4, and October 30, 1996, the complainant requested that the respondents provide her with a copy of all reports and information contained in state police case file #F94-272054, concerning a August 1994 school bus fire at Haddam-Killingworth high school, (hereinafter "requested records").

4. It is found that the respondents denied the March 1996, request by letter dated Match 25, 1996 and acknowledged receipt of the October, 1996 request by letter dated November 27, 1996.

5. Having failed to receive the requested records, the complainant, by letter dated November 17, 1996 and filed with the Commission on November 18, 1996, alleged thatthe respondents violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by denying her a copy

Docket #FIC 1996-574 Page 2

of the requested records.

6. It is found that by letters dated December 30, 1996, January 15 and February 5, 1997 the respondents provided the complainant with access to some of the requested records. At the present time, the complainant is interested in obtaining the following records:

a. all fire marshall reports not yet provided to the complainant, concerning the fire, described in paragraph 3 of the findings, above;

b. all written reports or statements of Charles Gutaukas, an individual interviewed in connection with case #F94-272054; and

c. all photographs of a Miller beer can or cans, photographs of the finger prints lifted off such can or cans, and the finger prints lifted off such can or cans.

7. It is found that the records described in paragraph 6 of the findings, above, are maintained by the respondents and are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.

8. Section 1-19(a), G.S., requires disclosure of all public records, unless otherwise exempt by federal law or state statute.

9. With respect to the records described in paragraph 6a. and 6b. of the findings, above, it is found that the respondents have provided the complainant with a copy of all records responsive to such requests.

10. With respect to the records described in paragraph 6c. of the findings, above, the respondents contend that such records constitute evidence to be used in a prospective law enforcement action within the meaning of 1-19(b)(3)(C), G.S. They further contend that such records are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(4), G.S.

11. Section 1-19(b)(3)(C), G.S., permits the nondisclosure of "[r]ecords of law enforcement agencies not otherwise available to the public which records were compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of crime, if the disclosure of said records would not be in the public interest because it would result in the disclosure of information to be used in a prospective law enforcement action if prejudicial to such action."

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12. Section 1-19(b)(4), G.S., permits the nondisclosure of "[r]ecords 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 records described in paragraph 6c. of the findings, above, are records compiled in connection with the detection and investigation of crime within the meaning of 1-19(b)(3)(C), G.S.

14. It is also found that the Middlesex State’s Attorney intends to re-prosecute the defendant in State v. Anonymous, 240 Conn. 708 (1996), in connection with the school bus fire, described in paragraph 3 of the findings, above.

15. It is further found that disclosure of the records described in paragraph 6c. of the findings, above, would result in the disclosure of information to be used in a prospective law enforcement action, prejudicial to such action within the meaning of 1-19(b)(3)(C), G.S.

16. It is concluded that the records described in paragraph 6c. of the findings, above, are permissively exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(3)(C), G.S., and therefore, the respondents did not violate 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., when they failed to provide the complainant with a copy of such records.

17 With respect to the respondents’ further claim that the records, described in paragraph 6c. of the findings, above, are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(4), G.S., it is concluded that in light of the conclusion reached in paragraph 16 of the findings, above, it is not necessary for the Commission to address such claim of exemption.

18. At the hearing on this matter, the complainant also indicated that she would like to have access to the Miller beer can or cans, described in paragraph 6c. of the findings, above, to take her own photographs.

19. It is found however, that the Miller beer can or cans do not constitute "public records or files" within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S., and therefore, the Commission lacks jurisdiction to address the disclosure of such items.

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

1. The complaint is dismissed.

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Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of September 24, 1997.

_________________________
Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission

Docket #FIC 1996-574 Page 5

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:
Nancy H. Thompson
c/o John R. Williams, Esq.
Williams, Polan & Pattis, LLC
51 Elm Street
New Haven, CT. 06510

Commissioner, State of Connecticut, Department of Public Safety; and State of Connecticut, Department of Public Safety
c/o Terrence M. O’Neill, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
110 Sherman Street
Hartford, CT. 06105

__________________________
Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1996-574/mes/10031997