FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by

FINAL DECISION

Anne M. Hamilton and The Hartford Courant,

 

 

Complainants

 

 

against

 

Docket #FIC 1997-420

Patricia Daniel, Superintendent, Hartford Public Schools; Gloria de Jesus, Coordinator, Office of Assessments and Teaching Strategy, Hartford Public Schools; Board of Education, City of Hartford; and Hartford Public Schools,

 

 

Respondents

May 13, 1998

        The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 4, 1998, at which time the complainants 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 # FIC1997-412 Anne M. Hamilton and The Hartford Courant against Patricia Daniel, Superintendent, Hartford Public Schools; and Board of Education, City of Hartford and Docket # FIC1998-006 Anne M. Hamilton and The Hartford Courant against Patricia Daniel, Superintendent, Hartford Public Schools; Robert Stacy, Human Resources Director, Hartford Public Schools; and Hartford Board of Education, City of Hartford. The case caption in this matter has been amended to reflect the correct names of the respondents.

        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(a), G.S.

        2. It is found that, during a December 23, 1997, meeting among the complainant Hamilton and the respondents Daniel and de Jesus, the complainants requested access to mastery test score data, which record was in the custody of such respondents at such time.

        3. It is found that the respondents denied the complainants’ access to the requested record pending delivery of such record to individual school principals.

        4. By letter dated December 23, 1997, and filed December 26, 1997, the complainants appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by denying them access to the requested record. In addition, the complainants requested the imposition of a civil penalty against the custodian of the records.

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

        6. It is further found that the complainants were provided with a copy of the requested record during a February, 1998 meeting of the respondent board.

        7. Section 1-19(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:

[e]xcept as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute, all records maintained…by any public agency…shall be public records and every person shall have the right to inspect such records promptly during regular office…hours or to receive a copy of such records….

        8. It is found that the respondents do not claim that the requested record is exempt from disclosure pursuant to federal law or state statute, but rather the respondents ask indulgence from the Commission since the respondent superintendent is new to Connecticut and unfamiliar with the FOI Act. The respondents further contend that frequent staff changes and lack of appropriate training about the mandates of the FOI Act also resulted in their failure to properly respond to the complainants’ request.

        9. It is found that the respondents did not promptly comply with the complainants’ request within the meaning of the FOI Act and it is therefore concluded that the respondents violated the provisions of 1-19(a), G.S.

        10. Section 1-21i(b)(2), G.S., in relevant part states:

…upon the finding that a denial of any right created by the [FOI] Act was without reasonable grounds and after the custodian or other official directly responsible for the denial has been given an opportunity to be heard at a hearing…the commission may, in its discretion, impose against the custodian or other official a civil penalty of not less than twenty dollars nor more than one thousand dollars….

        11. It is found that the respondents’ denial of the complainants’ rights under 1-19(a), G.S., was without reasonable grounds.

        12. The Commission takes administrative notice of its order issued in Docket #FIC1997-233, Anne M. Hamilton and The Hartford Courant against Public Information Officer, Hartford Board of Education, Hartford Public Schools; and Superintendent of Schools, Hartford Public Schools, wherein the respondent superintendent was cautioned that future violations might result in civil penalties.

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

        1. Henceforth, the respondents shall strictly comply with the provisions of 1-19(a), G.S.

        2. Forthwith, the respondents Daniel and de Jesus, as the officials directly responsible for the violation described in paragraphs 9 and 11 of the findings, above, shall remit to this Commission a civil penalty in the amount of twenty-five dollars each.

        3. The respondents are cautioned that further violations of the FOI Act in the future may result in the in the imposition of larger civil penalties.

        4. The complaint is hereby dismissed against the respondent board, as the respondent board apparently had no role in the subject matter of this complaint.

        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:
Anne M. Hamilton
The Hartford Courant
285 Broad Street
Hartford, CT 06115

Patricia Daniel, Superintendent, Hartford Public Schools; Gloria de Jesus, Coordinator, Office of Assessments and Teaching Strategy, Hartford Public Schools; Board of Education, City of Hartford; and Hartford Public Schools
c/o Atty. Ann F. Bird
Asst. Corporation Counsel
550 Main Street
Hartford, CT 06103

__________________________
Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1997-420/FD/tcg/05181998