FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by

FINAL DECISION

Dayna McDermott Dumas,

 

 

Complainants

 

 

against

 

Docket #FIC 1997-283

Patrick Proctor, Superintendent of Schools, Windham Public Schools; Susan M. Collins, Chairman, Board of Education, Town of Windham; Dolores Ackley; Mark W. Doyle; Paulette N. Haines; Paula M. Haney; Manuel A. Diaz, Jr.; Leslie A. Johnson-O’Brien; Benjamin S. Vreeland; and Lynne P. Weeks, as Members, Board of Education, Town of Windham; and Board of Education, Town of Windham,

 

 

Respondents

March 11, 1998

        The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 4, 1997, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. For purposes of hearing, this case was consolidated with Docket #FIC1997-286, Juan Arriola against Patrick Proctor, Superintendent of Schools, Windham Public Schools; Susan M. Collins, Chairman, Board of Education, Town of Windham; Dolores Ackley; Mark W. Doyle; Paulette N. Haines; Paula M. Haney; Manuel A. Diaz, Jr.; Leslie A. Johnson-O’Brien; Benjamin S. Vreeland; and Lynne P. Weeks, as Members, Board of Education, Town of Windham; and Board of Education, Town of Windham.

        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 1-18a(1), G.S. (prior to October 1, 1997, 1-18a(a), G.S.).

        2. By letter dated August 11, 1997, the complainant requested that the respondent board provide her with access to "all guidelines, policies, rules, regulations, and similar instruments relating to personnel, especially those portions of the guidelines, policies, rules, regulations, and similar instruments pertaining to the discipline and dismissal of Town of Windham school district employees."

        3. By letter dated August 15, 1997, the complainant requested that the respondent board provide her with access to "all materials, correspondences, letters, memos, documents, interviews, and similar files pertaining to the guidelines, policies, rules, regulations, and similar instruments pertaining to investigatory, disciplinary, and punitive actions taken against Dayna McDermott Dumas."

        4. By letters, each dated September 4, 1997 and filed on September 8, 1997, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by denying her access to the records described in paragraphs 2 and 3, above. The complainant requested that civil penalties be imposed.

        5. It is found that the requested records are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(5) (prior to October 1, 1997, 1-18a(d)) and 1-19(a), G.S.).

        6. Section 1-19(a), G.S., in relevant part states:

[e]xcept 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….

        7. It is found that the complainant and the respondents are involved in a protracted employment dispute, and that parties to this action are, or have been, involved in other contested administrative proceedings or matters before various state agencies.

        8. It is found that the complainant is represented by counsel in the employment dispute described in paragraph 7, above. It is further found that the respondents provided copies of the records described in paragraph 2, above, to the complainant’s attorney on June 27, 1997 and that counsel for the complainant did not communicate to the respondents a dissatisfaction with production of requested records.

        9. It is found that, on November 4, 1997, after the respondents’ receipt of notification of the filing of the complaint in this matter from this Commission, counsel for the respondents informed the complainant that the records described in paragraph 2, above, had been provided to her attorney but that, if the complainant so desired, an additional set of such records would be provided to her upon payment of the fee allowable by statute.

        10. It is found that, at the time of the hearing in this matter, the complainant was in receipt of copies of the records described in paragraph 2, above, consisting of numerous documents, with the exception of the back of one page, which inadvertently had not been photocopied prior to release. Such page was provided to the complainant at the hearing free of charge.

        11. It is found that the complainant’s personnel file contains the records described in paragraph 3, above. It is further found that the complainant was provided with access to such file on at least two occasions, and that one such occasion took place shortly after August 25, 1997. It is further found that the complainant acknowledged at the hearing that she has always had access to her personnel file.

        12. It is found that, while the respondents were remiss in not specifically responding to the requests described in paragraphs 2 and 3, above, their provision of access to the records described in such paragraphs was prompt under the facts and circumstances of this case.

        13. It is found that the respondents acknowledged at the hearing that the complainant is entitled to prompt access to the records described in paragraphs 2 and 3, above. It is further found that the respondents pledged to provide prompt access to requested non-exempt records in the future, which was the relief sought by the complainant at the hearing in this matter.

        14. In consideration of the foregoing, it is concluded that the respondents did not violate the provisions of 1-19(a), G.S., under the facts of this case.

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

        1. The complaint is hereby dismissed.

        Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 11, 1998.

_________________________
Doris V. Luetjen
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:
Dayna McDermott Dumas
218 W. Old Rte. 6
Hampton, CT 06247

Patrick Proctor, Superintendent of Schools, Windham Public Schools; Susan M. Collins, Chairman, Board of Education, Town of Windham; Dolores Ackley; Mark W. Doyle; Paulette N. Haines; Paula M. Haney; Manuel A. Diaz, Jr.; Leslie A. Johnson-O’Brien; Benjamin S. Vreeland; and Lynne P. Weeks, as Members, Board of Education, Town of Windham; and Board of Education, Town of Windham
c/o Thomas B. Mooney
Shipman & Goodwin LLP
One American Row
Hartford, CT 06103-2819

__________________________
Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1997-283/FD/tcg/03131998