FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by

FINAL DECISION

James D. Desso,

 

 

Complainants

 

 

against

 

Docket #FIC 1997-413

Commissioner, State of Connecticut, Department of Public Safety and State of Connecticut, Department of Public Safety,

 

 

Respondents

May 13, 1998

        The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 2, 1998, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. Contested case docket #FIC 1997-414, David L. Trapp v. Commissioner, State of Connecticut, Department of Public Safety and State of Connecticut, Department of Public Safety was consolidated with the above-captioned case for purpose of hearing.

        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.

        2. It is found that the complainant is employed as an auxiliary constable by the town of Stafford ("town"). In that capacity the complainant is paid by the town but works under the direction of the resident state trooper and performs duties in accordance with state police guidelines.

        3. It is found that by letter dated November 25, 1997, the complainant requested that the respondents provide him with information, records, documentation, notes, tape recordings, computer accessible files on-line or off-line (including records contained in the state police resource and management information system) and any other records maintained by the Department of Public Safety ("DPS"), Division of State Police, concerning the complainant, for the period January 1, 1997 through November 25, 1997 (hereinafter "requested records").

        4. It is found that the respondents by letter dated December 1, 1997 requested that the complainant clarify the records being sought, and by letter dated December 2, 1997 further informed the complainant that the request was being reviewed and that the complainant would be notified of the results of such review as soon as possible.

        5. Having failed to receive the requested records, the complainant, by letter dated December 17, 1997 and filed with the Commission on December 22, 1997, appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by denying him copies of the requested records.

        6. It is found that the DPS comprises numerous departments including the state police and the state fire marshal departments.

        7. It is found that the respondents do not have the capability of identifying all documents containing the complainant’s name without conducting research within its numerous departments.

        8. It is found that the respondent department maintains records responsive to the complainant’s request and such records are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(5) and 1-19(a), G.S.

        9. However, it is found that the complainant’s request as written and described in paragraph 2, above, required the respondents to do research, which the respondents are not obligated to do under the provisions of the FOI Act.

        10. It is found that the respondents’ records division ("records division") handles FOI requests, and upon receipt of the complainant’s request, contacted the commanding officer at the state police barracks, troop C, who informed the records division that they were in possession of a file ("file") containing records about the complainant.

        11. It is found that on December 17, 1997, the records division informed the complainant by telephone that he could review the file. The complainant visited the respondents’ records division on December 18, 1997 and at that time, reviewed the file and requested copies of approximately eighty-one pages. Upon receiving prepayment of $21.00, the respondents provided the complainant with the requested copies.

        12. The complainant contends that the respondents failed to provide prompt access to the requested records, and in addition, released the file to the media without his consent.

        13. Section 1-20a(b), G.S., provides:

Whenever 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 (1) 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. [Emphasis added.]

        14. It is found that the respondents did not reasonably believe that disclosure of the file to the media would legally constitute an invasion of the complainant’s privacy, within the meaning of 1-20a(b), G.S.

        15. It is therefore, concluded that in accordance with 1-20a(b), G. S., the respondents were not required to withhold the file from disclosure.

        16. It is also found that certain other records concerning the complainant, but which fall outside of the time period of the complainant’s records request, were located after the complainant’s visit to the respondents’ offices, described in paragraph 11, above. Such records have since been offered to the complainant by the records division but the complainant has not yet taken up that offer.

        17. It is concluded that under the facts and circumstances of this case, the respondents did not violate 1-15(a) and 1-19(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 complaint is dismissed.

        Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 13, 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:
James Desso
c/o George Saba
80 Krivanec Road
Willington, CT 06279

Commissioner, State of Connecticut, Department of Public Safety; and State of Connecticut, Department of Public Safety
c/o Atty. Jane Emons
Assistant Attorney General
110 Sherman Street
Hartford, CT 06105

__________________________
Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1997-413/FD/tcg/05181998