FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by

FINAL DECISION

Juan Arriola,

 

 

Complainants

 

 

against

 

Docket #FIC 1997-286

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 # FIC1997-283, Dayna McDermott Dumas 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 6, 1997, the complainant requested that the respondent board provide him with access to "all materials, correspondences, letters, memos, documents, interviews, and similar files pertaining to Juan Arriola, especially those portions that include materials, correspondences, letters, memos, documents, interviews, and similar files pertaining to investigatory, disciplinary, and punitive actions taken against Juan Arriola."

        3. By letter dated September 4, 1997 and filed on September 9, 1997, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by denying him access to the records described in paragraph 2, above. The complainant requested that civil penalties be imposed.

        4. 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.).

        5. 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….

        6. It is found that all existing records within the custody of the respondents which are responsive to the request described in paragraph 2, above, are contained in the complainant’s personnel file.

        7. It is found that, on June 17, 1997, the complainant informed the respondent superintendent that a certain attorney had the complainant’s permission to review the complainant’s personnel file until further notification.

        8. It is found that the attorney described in paragraph 7, above, did not contact the respondents relative to inspection of the complainant’s personnel file. It is further found that the complainant did not seek an appointment to review his personnel file since the time of the request described in paragraph 2, above, despite the fact that the complainant was at the office of the respondent superintendent on at least one occasion since such time.

        9. It is found that the complainant and the respondents are involved in a protracted employment dispute and that, during the course of such dispute, the respondent superintendent has been subjected to anonymous, insulting correspondence as well as a campaign to remove him from office. It is further found that, at one point during such dispute, the complainant was discovered to be in possession of materials used in such campaign.

        10. It is found that in the course of the dispute described in paragraph 9, above, the complainant has made requests for records of the respondent superintendent and that such requests were fulfilled despite the highly charged atmosphere described in paragraph 9, above.

        11. It is found that, while the respondents were remiss in not specifically responding to the request described in paragraph 2, above, the records described in such paragraph were available for the complainant’s inspection during regular business hours.

        12. It is found that, on November 4, 1997, after the respondents’ receipt of notification of the filing of the complaint in this matter, counsel for the respondents informed the complainant that the respondents would continue to provide the complainant with access to his personnel file.

        13. It is found that the respondents acknowledged at the hearing that the complainant is entitled to prompt access to the records described in paragraph 2, above, and 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:
Juan Arriola
c/o 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
FIC1997-286/FD/tcg/03131998