FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by

FINAL DECISION

Diana R. Raczkowski,

 

 

Complainants

 

 

against

 

Docket #FIC 1997-363

Mayor, Town of Naugatuck,

 

 

Respondents

March 11, 1998

        The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on January 13, 1998, 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(1), G.S. (prior to October 1, 1997, 1-18a(a), G.S.).

        2. By letter dated October 20, 1997, the complainant requested that the respondent provide her with:

a. a copy of a response written by the town planner in answer to allegations made by the complainant; and

b. a copy of the respondent mayor’s letter of reprimand addressed to the town planner.

        3. By letter dated November 4, 1997 and filed November 12, 1997, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information Act by denying her copies of the requested records.

        4. At the hearing, the complainant stipulated that her complaint is now limited to the record described in paragraph 2.b., above.

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

        6. Section 1-19(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that "[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 or to receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15…."

        7. Section 1-15(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that "[a]ny person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record. The fee for any copy provided in accordance with the [FOI] act…by [municipal] public agencies, as defined in section 1-18a, shall not exceed fifty cents per page…."

        8. The respondent contends that the reprimand letter described in paragraph 2.b., above, is exempt from mandatory disclosure since it is contained in a public employee personnel file.

        9. Section 1-19(b)(2), G.S., provides for the nondisclosure of "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 requested record is contained in an employee personnel file and is therefore a personnel record within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

        12. It is further found that such record pertains to a legitimate matter of public concern since it relates to a reprimand of a town planner for actions taken while performing his public duties. Accordingly, such record is not exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(2), G.S., and is subject to mandatory disclosure pursuant to 1-19(a), G.S.

        13. Section 1-20a(b), G.S., in relevant part states:

[w]henever a public agency receives a request to inspect or copy records contained in any of its employees' personnel or medical files and similar files and the agency reasonably believes that the disclosure of such records would legally constitute an invasion of privacy, the agency shall immediately notify in writing…each employee concerned…. Nothing herein shall require an agency to withhold from disclosure the contents of personnel or medical files and similar files when it does not reasonably believe that such disclosure would legally constitute an invasion of personal privacy.

        14. Section 1-20a(c), G.S., in relevant part states:

[a] public agency which has provided notice under subsection (b) of this section shall disclose the records requested unless it receives a written objection from the employee concerned…within seven business days from the receipt by the employee…. Upon the filing of an objection as provided in this subsection, the agency shall not disclose the requested records unless ordered to do so by the [FOI] Commission pursuant to section 1-21i….

        15. It is found that the respondent did not prove that he had provided written notice of the complainant’s request to the subject employee, as required by 1-20a(b), G.S. Moreover, it is further found that the employee who is the subject of the record described in paragraph 2.b., above, did not file an objection to disclosure until January 12, 1998, more than two months after the complainant’s request.

        16. As a result of the foregoing, it is concluded that the respondent violated the provisions of 1-19(a), G.S., and 1-20a, G.S., by failing to follow the procedures set forth therein.

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

        1. The respondent shall forthwith provide the complainant with a copy of the record described in paragraph 2.b., above.

        2. Henceforth the respondent shall strictly comply with the disclosure provisions of 1-19(a) and 1-15(a), G.S., and the procedures set forth in 1-20a, G.S.

        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:
Diana R. Raczkowski
1042 May Street
Naugatuck, CT 06770

Mayor, Town of Naugatuck
c/o Jim Amon
Personnel Director
Town Hall
229 Church Street
Naugatuck, CT 06770

Anthony Pesanelli
Town Hall
229 Church Street
Naugatuck, CT 06770

__________________________
Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1997-363/FD/tcg/03131998